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NBA Summer League 2016 Championship: Early Preview for Timberwolves vs. Bulls

Published by Bleacher Report on Mon, 18 Jul 2016

The NBA's summer slate will come to an end on Monday with the Minnesota Timberwolves looking to cap off their Cinderella run with a championship against theChicago Bulls.The Timberwolves were the No. 24 seed when the tournament started but have reeled off four straight victories behind a talented young group led by Tyus Jones andDevin Thomas that has brought a sense of optimism back to Minnesota basketball.The Bulls are a clear Goliath in this title matchup against Minnesota. They have been perfect throughout the summer league, going 6-0 with half of their victories coming by at least nine points. Bobby Portis has led their balanced offensive attack, which features five players averaging double figures in scoring. NBA Summer League RecordPreviewDon't be fooled by Minnesota's defensive stats. That points-per-game total is blown up thanks to the team's 0-3 start to the summer league, highlighted by a 99-68 defeat against the Cleveland Cavaliers.The Timberwolves have won the four games since that debacle by a combined 25 points. They have been great in close battles, knocking off Toronto 81-79 in the quarterfinals thanks to two Jones free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining.Jones has been a revelation this summer, scoring over 20 points in each of the last three games and averaging 6.3 assists per game.After Jones scored 29 points and dished out six assists in semifinals against the Phoenix Suns, ESPN's Myron Medcalf offered this summation on Twitter:Jones floundered with the Timberwolves during the regular season last year, averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 assists per game in 15.5 minutes.Brent Barry said on NBA TV that Jones' performance in the summer league has earned him a second chance, via Duke of Hoops on Twitter:Speaking to Steve Carp of theLas Vegas Review-Journal, Jones said he relishes his job as the floor general for the Timberwolves this summer after taking over primary duties from Kris Dunn:Im very comfortable with the responsibility I have.Its the point guards job to get everyone in the right spots and its a challenge because we have so many new faces. But I like the way weve come together this week. Guys are playing for each other and looking for each other. Its definitely fun when youre winning.Jones also has help from his teammates.Adreian Payne is averaging 14.6 points per game and went 8-of-17 from the field against the Suns.The Timberwolves will need their two stars to play up to their full potential because the Bulls have been a well-oiled machine this summer.Portis has been the leader of Chicago's offense, yet Denzel Valentine is having a strong summer with 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Spencer Dinwiddie, Christiano Felicio and Jerian Grant have all scored at least 10 points per game.Mark Schanowski of Comcast SportsNet Chicago highlighted two of the Bulls' standout performers:Portis was a first-round pick last year who largely disappointed as a rookie. He did play in 62 games yet could only muster seven points per game and shot 42.7 percent overall (30.8 percent from three-point range).Right now, Portis is shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range. The 2014-15 SEC Player of the Year seems poised for a strong season, especially if this consistency with his jump shot is legitimate.Yet the Bulls are more than a collection of scorers. Their defense has been terrific in this tournament, with the semifinal game against the Cavs being a perfect example.Cleveland started the game torching Chicago's defense, shooting 56 percent in the first half to take a 46-36 lead. After the intermission, though, the Cavaliers were held to 33 points on 10-of-31 shooting.The Timberwolves have the best player in the championship game, with Jones playing on another level, but the Bulls have the better team. Individual talent can carry a lot of things in basketball, but no one has been able to slow the Bulls down yet.Prediction: Bulls 81, Timberwolves 74
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