As they bounded off the Target Center court Sunday evening, the Bulls couldn't have cared less that they'd let a 13-point second-half lead disintegrate.
Or that the Timberwolves had played without Sam Cassell, Wally Szczerbiak and, for the second half, Fred Hoiberg.
A win is a win is a win, and the Bulls (24-23) now own more of those than they had all of last season after a gritty 87-83 matinee victory.
The emotional boost Minnesota was expected to receive when Kevin McHale took over for fired coach Flip Saunders was matched by a steely Bulls performance. In sweeping Minnesota 2-0 for the first time since 1996-97, the Bulls limited their fouls and turnovers, rediscovered their defensive intensity and came up with the big plays when necessary.
"I'm proud of the way our guys played at the end," coach Scott Skiles said.
Latrell Sprewell scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the first 7 minutes 46 seconds of the fourth quarter as Minnesota rallied from six down.
Michael Olowokandi's 7-foot jumper with six minutes to play had given Minnesota its first lead since the first quarter. But the Bulls held the Timberwolves without a basket over the final 3:02 and took the lead for good on Ben Gordon's layup with 2:10 left.
Gordon, who led the Bulls with 21 points, rebounded his own miss after lofting an ugly floater over Kevin Garnett.
"I wasn't concentrating on making the [first] shot," Gordon said. "I was just trying to get it over KG. He usually punches those into the stands. I followed the line of the ball and was able to put it back."
Gordon has had prettier game-winners in his career, but he and the Bulls will take it.
"Ben has never seen a clutch shot he doesn't like," Tyson Chandler said.
Neither has Garnett, who finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds. He attacked Chandler with just under 40 seconds to play and rimmed out a jumper. But he sneaked in for what looked to be a sure tip of his own miss, only to see the ball clang off the back rim and send Kirk Hinrich on a fast break the other way.
"That's the end of the snakebite," said McHale, who couldn't prevent Minnesota from losing its eighth of its last nine.
Hinrich, caught and fouled hard by Olowokandi, split two free throws with 33 seconds left.
On the next possession, Chandler played solid defense on Garnett, who missed a 12-footer. Minnesota shot 40 percent overall and 30.8 percent in the fourth, including an 0-for-6 quarter by Garnett.
"I take those matchups personally, especially coming down the stretch," Chandler said. "They're coming at me. And I don't want my man to be the cause of winning the game."
Gordon rebounded Garnett's miss, one of his season-high eight boards, and sank two free throws with 17.8 seconds left for a four-point lead.
After two free throws by Troy Hudson with 13.3 seconds remaining, Sprewell fouled Othella Harrington, who had a solid game with 12 points and six rebounds. Harrington iced the victory by sinking both free throws with 11.9 seconds to play.
Hinrich finished with 15 points and five assists. Eddy Curry scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half. Chandler failed to score but had 11 rebounds and two blocks.
"I knew they would come out firing and energized because of the coaching change," Chandler said. "We were just able to match their intensity.
"This is a really big win for us. We wanted to get some space over .500 going into All-Star break. This team held its composure. Guys stepped up. This is just a great team."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times