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Bulls beat Timberwolves as Marco Belinelli delivers with 11 off bench

Marco Belinelli pulls down rebound front Timberwolves’ Dante Cunningham. | Gregory Shamus~Getty Images

Marco Belinelli pulls down a rebound in front of the Timberwolves’ Dante Cunningham. | Gregory Shamus~Getty Images

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:51AM

It hasn’t been the easiest transition for Marco Belinelli during the last six weeks.

Signed in the offseason, the shooting guard has had his growing pains in a new system. In the preseason, he looked overwhelmed with what was being asked of him defensively. In the first few regular-season games, he seemed intimidated to finally play for a franchise with deep playoff aspirations.

All the while, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has given him a parachute, insisting “Marco can help us in other ways if his shots not falling.’’


But when that shot is falling, like it was in the 87-80 win over Minnesota on Saturday, that’s when Belinelli is most valuable.

“That’s definitely nice,’’ teammate Jimmy Butler said of Belinelli’s
fourth-quarter flurry of three straight three-pointers. “That goes for anybody. All of a sudden you’re hitting shots like that and you become hard to guard. It gets your confidence up and the basket turns huge. I’m glad he got it going.’’

Belinelli finished with 11 of the 40 points coming from the bench, but more importantly, looked to be more comfortable.

“The last few games, I didn’t play a lot,’’ Belinelli said. “I went back and watched the games, and I don’t think I was aggressive on defense. That was the mistake that I made. I know on this team you have to play defense.

“I think [scoring] is part of my job. I know they want me to score and to be a better player. I know I can be a better defender, so that’s the thing I’m working on. Step by step, everything is getting better. I just want to win. The reason I’m here is I just want to win. Win as many games as we can, win the championship.’’

What’s Italian for slow down?

The winning is still a work in progress as the Bulls improved to 4-2. While Thibodeau was pleased with the bench showing up, especially Belinelli sparking the Bulls at the start of the fourth quarter with nine points in a three-minute span, it wasn’t all hugs and smiles. It rarely is with the Bulls this season.

Kirk Hinrich was forced out of the game in the second quarter with what is being called a strained right hip. According to Thibodeau, the extent of the injury was still an unknown and he would be checked out again on Sunday, but Nate Robinson jumped right back in and had a team-high 18 points.

Even rookie Marquis Teague pulled in some minutes, scoring his first NBA regular-season basket on a layup.

The head-scratcher, however, was the disappearing act of Carlos Boozer, who went 0-for-5 from the field, having his first game without a field goal since November of 2003.

“The ball is just not going in for him,’’ Thibodeau said of Boozer. “He has experience, it will come around. We just have to be patient. When you’re not shooting the ball well, we expect you to do other things to win.’’

A lesson Belinelli seems to be embracing.

Not only did he score 11 points, but he logged 22 minutes.

“That’s big that the bench can go out there and get stops and score points,’’ Butler added. “That’s a key part of the game, just like the starters are.’’

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