MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Derrick Rose had 23 points and 10 assists in three quarters and the Chicago Bulls blew out the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-91 on Wednesday night.
Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 14 rebounds and the Bulls recorded 31 assists on 41 field goals to stay 2 1/2 games ahead of Boston and Miami in the race for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Kevin Love had 16 points and nine rebounds, but was limited to 27 minutes in his first game back from a strained left groin. The Timberwolves (17-58) lost their eighth straight game and have sunk to the bottom of the West.
The Bulls, who were missing starting center Joakim Noah because of a sprained right ankle, bounced back in a big way after a humbling loss to Philadelphia.
Two nights after the 76ers snapped Chicago’s 14-game home winning streak, the Bulls attacked the Wolves from the start, playing a beautifully unselfish brand of basketball that was on an entirely different level than the home team.
Rose had 13 points and five assists in the first quarter – Wolves point guard Luke Ridnour had 11 points and two assists in the entire game – and Chicago had 17 assists on 22 baskets in the first half.
The ball movement created wide-open shot after wide-open shot, a cohesive unit dominating a group of individuals in every way, shape and form.
The Bulls shot 50 percent for the game, pulling away in the third quarter with a 3 by Rose and a drive-and-dish from Luol Deng to Boozer that gave them an 86-62 lead.
Love and Rose have played against each other for years, dating to their high school and AAU days in California and are close friends. The two worked out together, along with Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook, at a Los Angeles gym over the summer and the hard work clearly paid off. All three players are having career seasons, with Love and Rose emerging as the faces of their respective franchises.
Love earned his first All-Star appearance and leads the NBA in rebounding, but it is Rose who has quickly asserted himself as one of the game’s elite players.
His blend of strength, quickness and pure speed has proven too much for the league to handle, and his selfless attitude has transformed the Bulls from a middling playoff team to a legitimate contender and the current No. 1 seed in the East.
“You look at what he’s done with his team, it’s tough to argue D-Rose isn’t the MVP,” Love said.
He is also exactly what the Timberwolves are missing. Love is a wonderful supporting player, but they need a leader, a superstar, a competitor like Rose if they are ever going to lift themselves from the Western Conference basement.
While Rose had the Bulls humming, with the ball moving, the defense squeezing and the jumpers falling, the Timberwolves wilted into a one-on-one mess.
They had just 12 assists for the game and too often settled for jumpers or wild drives to the basket.
Notes: Technically, two of Love’s 16 points weren’t his. Bulls forward Taj Gibson knocked the ball into his own basket with just over eight minutes to play in the second quarter, and Love was credited as the nearest player to the ball. … Veteran Kurt Thomas started for Noah and hit his first three jumpers. He finished with six points and eight rebounds. … Timberwolves C Nikola Pekovic missed his second straight game with a hip injury.