The host Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves enter Wednesday night's game at United Center with identical January records of 3-8.
Minnesota has lost six straight and Chicago has dropped three of its last five. If there's a silver lining to the clubs' first meeting of the season, it's that one side will emerge with a much-needed win.
"You've got to go out there and do your part and just try to keep leading," Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said.
Minnesota remained within one possession of the Western Conference-contending Denver Nuggets for much of Monday's second half, and a Keita Bates-Diop dunk over Nuggets star Nikola Jokic trimmed the deficit to 88-85 with 8:33 to go.
But Denver distanced itself down the stretch en route to a 107-100 road win, extending the Wolves' slide despite a 28-point, eight-rebound effort from Towns.
The Timberwolves, who lost 11 straight games from Dec. 1-23, have fallen by double digits three times during their current skid.
"I think we have great guys in here, and we have to set our foundation, and our foundation has to be set with consistency," Towns said. "It's not good enough to be six out of seven days consistent. You've got to be seven out of seven days. That's what we're striving for, and we're going to reach it."
Bulls coach Jim Boylen channeled similar resolve after Chicago's 111-98 loss at Milwaukee on Monday afternoon. The Bulls struggled to 37 percent shooting against the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks, including a 14-for-48 effort (29.2 percent) from deep.
"We just keep fighting and scrapping," Boylen said. "If we have a normal shooting night from the 3, it's a different outcome."
Guard Zach LaVine, who spent his first three NBA seasons with Minnesota, paced the Bulls with 24 points and has scored at least 20 points in 11 straight games.
Still, the Bulls endured a familiar struggle in trying to cultivate scoring depth behind LaVine. Lauri Markkanen, acquired with LaVine via trade on draft day in 2017, shot just 2-for-11 against the Bucks and missed all seven attempts from long distance.
"I know he's going to work," Boylen said. "He cares and he has high character. I believe in him and our team believes in him."
Markkanen also expressed optimism about rebounding from his recent woes.
"I've had long stretches where I didn't make shots," he said. "I'm not worried about that."
The 7-foot Markkanen stands three 3-pointers shy of becoming just the third Bull to drill 100 treys in his first three seasons in the league.
Minnesota defeated Chicago in both meetings last season, rolling by 15 points at home and 25 on the road. The Timberwolves have won three straight in the series and seven of eight overall.
The Timberwolves will host the Bulls on March 4 to complete the season series.
--Field Level Media