They found inspiration in the raised fist Malik Allen lifted gingerly as paramedics carted the Bulls center out on a stretcher. Chris Duhon displayed similar toughness by insisting on playing with an aching jaw and then stepping forward on a defensive play that could have cost him dearly.
Kirk Hinrich was the most inspired Bull, coming one assist shy of a triple double in the Bulls' 111-100 victory over the Timberwolves on Tuesday night at the United Center in front of 19,865 fans.
Luol Deng added 24 points and had 10 rebounds.
"I thought the guys rallied," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We came out in the third quarter with a lot more intensity."
Kevin Garnett led the Timberwolves with 27 points and 12 rebounds, but he was ineffective in the first half when he scored just eight. The Bulls outscored Minnesota 50-18 in the paint.
Some of the game's significance-- the Bulls are fighting for their playoff lives--was lost briefly when Allen and Duhon appeared to suffer serious injuries in separate incidents.
Early in the second quarter, Allen departed on a stretcher to Rush University Medical Center for a head or neck injury.
"He had central pain in his spine," Bulls athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi said.
He has a neck sprain and early tests were inconclusive, according to Tedeschi.
Having arm and hand movement was "absolutely key," Tedeschi said. "It's the ones that don't move that really scare you."
Making only his second start, Allen suffered the injury while attempting to take a charge against Rashad McCants. Allen fell backward, hitting his head against Darius Songaila's right kneecap, which caused his head to snap forward.
Holding the back of his head with his hands, Allen stayed down on the floor until paramedics and the Bulls medical staff immobilized him to place him on a stretcher. After 10 minutes, he was carted out, waving his fist to signal he was alert.
From across the court, standing by the Bulls bench, teammates stayed fixated on Allen. Later in the same quarter, when Duhon dropped to the floor, they clearly were unnerved.
Duhon went down under the Timberwolves basket after getting hit hard in the jaw on a drive by Justin Reed.
He had been questionable for the game because he had bruised his jaw in practice a day earlier. Whether or not he should have played is debatable because he complained of soreness and swelling before tipoff.
His teammates rushed over, as did Skiles and assistant Pete Myers, believing a confrontation with the Timberwolves might erupt.
Duhon returned to the bench for the third quarter with an ice pack on his face and his team down to nine in uniform. Hinrich had no backup at point guard with Duhon on the bench and Jannero Pargo sidelined with a sprained left big toe.
Already, Othella Harrington was hampered by inflammation in his left knee. He had fluid drained for the second time in a week earlier Tuesday.
BULLS 111, TIMBERWOLVES 100