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Challenges await as Bulls close preseason

Donovan says he understands its early but his team has a lot of work to do on defense and must get better at protecting the ball ahead of their regular season opener next Wednesday vs Oklahoma City

Chicago Bulls stars
Zach Lavine (#8) and DeMar DeRozan (#11) at United Center October 1, 2023 (John L. Alexander/The Bigs))

The Chicago Bulls fell to the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-105 at the United Center Thursday in their fifth and final dress rehearsal before opening night.

Here’s what stood out. Patrick Williams made headlines for playing with a lack of force against Toronto Tuesday. He responded with decisive drives into the paint in the preseason finale, challenging three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert multiple times at the rim and dunking over Shake Milton along the baseline early in the first quarter. "As a player, it's always a tricky thing," Williams said. "Some players don't like to get pushed or challenged. Some do. I feel like the great ones, they usually do and they usually respond well. For me, that's kind of how I viewed it." It wasn't all rainbows and highlights for the fourth-year forward, however. He missed all seven of his three-point attempts and fumbled a wide-open dunk attempt out of bounds for one of his three turnovers. "He shot the ball really poorly tonight, really poorly," head coach Billy Donovan said. "And he shot it poorly from the three-point line and everybody felt his presence in the game in terms of what he was doing. Made some great passes. He got to the glass. He rebounded. You're gonna have nights like that. I give him credit. A lot of times when you don't shoot the ball well, it can bleed into other areas." Williams finished with 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field, five rebounds, a block and an assist in 31 minutes. His five rebounds were half as many as he collected in the previous four games combined. With Zach LaVine (illness) scratched from the lineup, Donovan started Ayo Dosunmu in his place alongside Williams, Nikola Vucevic (21 points and 10 rebounds), DeMar DeRozan (11 points and four assists) and Coby White (13 points, six rebounds and three assists). That group was outscored by seven points in its stints together. Then, with Jevon Carter and Alex Caruso taking turns spelling Dosunmu, couldn't narrow the gap any closer than 97-85 in the fourth quarter against a Timberwolves team that was without Karl-Anthony Towns (right patella tendinopathy), Mike Conley (illness) and Jaden McDaniels (left calf strain) and rested Gobert and Anthony Edwards in the second half. "I like the way we're trying to play on offense," Donovan said. "I think we have gotta get much better at taking care of the basketball. That's been clearly, I think, a consistent challenge for us most games and I understand it's early and maybe you're not going to be as sharp as you need to be. But we've got to clean that up. "I think the other part, defensively, we're not near where we had been last year. I think we have a lot of work ahead of us there to get better in that area." Before the game, Donovan said he didn't expect LaVine's illness to have any long-term ramifications. Frankly, LaVine didn't need a fourth exhibition contest to prove he spent the summer sharpening his knife, not restoring his explosion. Of his 41 shot attempts, 18 came inside the paint with the former two-time Slam Dunk Contest champion finishing 72.2% of the time -- 82.3% of the time had he not missed a layup in transition against Denver Oct. 12. For the first time in four years, the Bulls (1-4) finished the preseason with a losing record. They open the regular season against Oklahoma City Wednesday at the United Center in what will be the debut of former second-overall pick Chet Holmgren, who missed last season because of a foot injury.


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