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Jimmy Butler looks good in long look, but Bulls lose

The Timberwolves’ Alexey Shved (top) gets tied up with Jimmy Butler Saturday. Shved scored 15 points Timberwolves’ win. | Jim

The Timberwolves’ Alexey Shved (top) gets tied up with Jimmy Butler on Saturday. Shved scored 15 points in the Timberwolves’ win. | Jim Mone~AP

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Updated: November 15, 2012 6:51AM

MINNEAPOLIS — There are signs from Jimmy Butler.

There was the put-back dunk in the first half. Vicious, athletic and perfectly timed. There was his defense and, more importantly, an understanding of coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive concepts. There was the rebounding.

That’s why Thibodeau made the decision in the 82-75 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night that he would get as good a look as possible at his second-year player — 48 minutes, to be exact.

“He’s in great shape, and I wanted to get him playing with some confidence,’’ Thibodeau said. “If I thought he would have needed a blow, I would have taken him out. I just felt like he was playing well, so I wanted to ride it.’’

Butler got the starting nod for Luol Deng (groin) and finished with nine points, eight rebounds and three assists in the Bulls’ second loss in as man days.

He also seemed to play with a freedom not seen very often from the first-round pick — a freedom of not looking over his shoulder with every mistake.

“I feel like I do that at times, but I’ve got to get away from that and play basketball,’’ Butler said. “I’m out there with four other guys, so it’s not just about me, and that’s what it kind of looks like if I’m worried about if I’m going to mess up, instead of just worrying about how we’re going to do as a group out there.’’

Asked if his worrying comes from the high expectations of Thibodeau or just being a second-year player trying to find his way in the NBA, Butler said it was a “little bit of both.’’

“But I’ve been doing it so long, it’s basketball,’’ Butler said. “I know this sport. I know this game. And with all the help that I have, I know each and every player on every team, so it’s all about going out there and executing at this point and time.’’

That’s a concept that still seems to be eluding the Bulls as a team through the first week of preseason games. They fell to 1-2.

“I thought the start was better,’’ Thibodeau said of the latest slip. “I thought the approach was better. And we still have a long way to go. Defensively, we’re ahead of where we are offensively.

“The fourth quarter right now is a problem, and I think we have to respond better to the difference between the first three quarters and the fourth quarter.’’

The Bulls actually jumped out to a 20-19 first-quarter lead, even with Deng and Rip Hamilton sitting out. Getting outscored 24-15 in the final 12 minutes was what did them in.

As goes Thibodeau …

“Well, our coach definitely beats himself up over it,’’ center Joakim Noah said, “so however your coach goes, that’s how we go.’’

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