CHICAGO -- Guard Marco Belinelli finally located his long-range shooting touch, allowing the Chicago Bulls to pull away in the fourth quarter for an 87-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday at the United Center.
Belinelli drained 3-pointers on three of the first four possessions of the fourth quarter, boosting the Bulls' advantage to 72-63 with 9:56 remaining. Signed as a free agent this summer to help replace sharpshooter Kyle Korver, Belinelli had made just three baskets from 3-point range all season, while the Bulls were shooting a paltry 28.1 percent from long distance as a team, heading into Saturday's action.
Guard Nate Robinson led the Bulls with 18 points, while center Joakim Noah added 17 and Luol Deng had 16. Belinelli scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota, which never got closer than five points following Belinelli's outburst, was led by center Nikola Pekovic with 18 points. Dante Cunningham scored 14 points off the bench, while Andrei Kirilenko contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds.
The Bulls had trouble shaking free in this game, even though Minnesota played shorthanded and was on the second leg of a back-to-back. The home team took the lead for good at 57-55 with 4:29 left in the third quarter on a pair of free throws by Carlos Boozer.
There was an odd call late in the third quarter. Shortly after Bulls rookie Marquis Teague scored his first NBA points on a driving bank shot, he bit on a shot fake by Minnesota's Malcolm Lee as the horn sounded.
Teague committed the foul before time expired, but the shot didn't leave Lee's hand before the clock hit zero. After reviewing the replay, the officials waved the Bulls' drum line off the floor, put 0.3 seconds on the clock and gave the ball to the Timberwolves on the side instead of awarding free throws.
The Timberwolves were without All-Star forward Kevin Love (broken hand) and point guard Ricky Rubio (knee surgery), but still got off to their best start since the 2001-02 season with a 4-1 record heading into Saturday's action. Guards Brandon Roy (sore knee) and Jose Barea (foot sprain) were also sidelined against the Bulls.
Once again, though, Minnesota continued to flaunt its deep roster. Pekovic scored 14 points in the first half and Cunningham added eight off the bench, pushing the Timberwolves to a 41-40 lead at intermission.
NOTES: Minnesota guard Brandon Roy missed Saturday's game with a sore knee. After retiring due to chronic knee problems, Roy is making a comeback. He had played in all five games this season, but sat out the second half of Friday's win over Indiana. "Since the start of training camp, he's been pretty good," Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. "Hopefully, it's just a minor setback. I certainly expected him not to go all the way through the whole time." ... Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich suffered a right hip strain in the first half. Backup Nate Robinson started the third quarter in Hinrich's place. ... Bulls center Joakim Noah went to the locker room briefly in the first half with a left knee laceration. He returned to the court a few minutes later.