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updated: 10/13/2012 10:59 PM

Bulls' B-Team gets a close look

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  • Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau sends in some signals during the second half of Saturday night's preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau sends in some signals during the second half of Saturday night's preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
    Associated Press


The best thing about the Bulls during the first two preseason games was the Kirk Hinrich-Richard Hamilton backcourt.

The defense Hinrich played against Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving on Friday in Champaign was enough to make a fan party like it's 2005. Irving hit 2 of 15 shots in the Cleveland victory.

On Saturday in Minnesota, Hamilton was given the night off and forward Luol Deng sat out to rest a groin injury. That opened the door for coach Tom Thibodeau to take a longer look at some disappointing preseason performers.

Not the "Bench Mob," necessarily, but the B-Team -- shooting guard Marco Belinelli and small forward Jimmy Butler. Both started against the Timberwolves.

The Bulls fell to 1-2 in the preseason by losing 82-75 to Minnesota. The game was tied at 68-68 after a Taj Gibson layup with 6:56 left. While the Bulls couldn't score for the next six minutes, the Timberwolves used an 11-0 run to take control.

Hinrich led the Bulls with 15 points, while center Joakim Noah contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds.

In the first two games, Belinelli hit 3 of 13 field goals, with no 3-point baskets. He had an ugly plus-minus of negative-22 against the Cavs.

Against Minnesota, Belinelli was a victim of the quick whistle. He picked up 5 fouls and was limited to 22 minutes of action. The Timberwolves shot 51 free throws Saturday as referees exercised the NBA preseason tradition of calling games tight.

Belinelli finished with 7 points, hit 3 of 7 shots and is 0-for-6 from 3-point range in exhibition games. When Derrick Rose returns, the Bulls could make Belinelli disappear by moving Hinrich to two guard. With Rose out, they'll need some contributions from the sixth-year veteran.

Butler hit just 3 of 18 shots in the first two preseason contests, though he did grab 13 rebounds. The second-year forward is a key figure because he could help cut down on Deng's league-leading minutes per game.

Thibodeau took a good look Saturday, playing Butler all 48 minutes. Butler had 9 points, 8 rebounds and continued to show the kind of athletic skills that could help the Bulls this season.

Backup point guard Nate Robinson scored 9 points but has hit just 7 of 30 shots in preseason (23.3 percent). Veteran center Nazr Mohammed (10 points) had another good game and is averaging 9.0 points and 9.7 rebounds.

Thibodeau didn't think Deng's injury was serious, saying it happened Friday against the Cavs. All-star forward Kevin Love didn't play for Minnesota.

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