CHICAGO -- Guard Marco Belinelli keeps telling people he's more than a 3-point shooter. But when his 3-point shot is falling, clearly he's more valuable to the Chicago Bulls.
Belinelli struggled during preseason before making minor strides in the past week. He finally located his long-range shooting touch on Saturday, allowing the Bulls to pull away in the fourth quarter for an 87-80 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the United Center.
"I don't want to be just a 3-point shooter," Belinelli said in the locker room. "That's part of my game, but I want to be much better than that. The last two games, I didn't play a lot. I watched the games and think I wasn't aggressive on defense. That's the mistake I made."
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 stretching the lead 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.
"The second half, I thought we played really hard," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I was pleased overall. I thought we found a way to win, which is the most important thing. I thought our bench was terrific."
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 until the clock had already 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.
"It was a tough game," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "We played hard. We just could not sustain it. I liked the way we competed."
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.
Forward Chase Budinger left the floor early in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Adelman said after the game it appeared Budinger had a "twisted knee."
"We were doing so well and Chase got hurt," Minnesota guard Luke Ridnour said. "It looks like he got pushed. There was a lot of pushing and fouling. We just have to play through it. We were right there at the end."
Once again, Minnesota proved it has a deep roster this season. 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 and did not return. Coach Tom Thibodeau did not have an update on Hinrich's status after the contest. ... 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.