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Article updated: 3/8/2013 11:57 PM

Belinelli chimes in with another game-winner

By Mike McGraw

LeBron James worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon last summer to learn some post moves.

Maybe this summer, James should head to Italy for some tutoring from Marco Belinelli.

Obviously, there's not much Belinelli could teach the three-time MVP. But James made news Wednesday by scoring his first-game winning basket in the final 10 seconds since joining Miami in 2010.

Belinelli, meanwhile, delivered a late-game, go-ahead bucket for the third time in less than two months on Friday. His corner 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds on the clock lifted the Bulls to a tense 89-88 victory over Utah at the United Center.

The Jazz took the lead with 51.6 seconds left on a jumper by Al Jefferson (23 points). Coach Tom Thibodeau has made a habit recently of putting Belinelli at point guard and the Bologna, Italy, native started the go-ahead possession by missing a wild running bank shot.

As usual, the Bulls were working hard on the boards and the rebound bounced off about six players before finally being corralled by Jimmy Butler. Mired in heavy traffic, Butler had the vision to find Belinelli standing open in the left corner.

"I was ready to shoot the ball," Belinelli said. "I think we were lucky and Jimmy got a great rebound, so he did a good job to find me in the corner. I scored the ball, but I think the best move Jimmy made there."

Yes, but producing three game-winning shots is an achievement few NBA players accomplish. There's got to be more to it than simply being in the right place at the right time.

"I don't want to think about that," Belinelli said. "I just like to do my job and win a game, that's most important. Especially right now, they have a lot of confidence in me. So I just try to go on the court and play hard. It was a big shot for me, but that was a team win."

Belinelli is in his second extended stint of starting in place of injured shooting guard Richard Hamilton. In 17 games as a starter this season, Belinelli has averaged 15.3 points.

It's becoming clear that Thibodeau trusts Belinelli with the ball in his hands late in games more than maybe Nate Robinson, who sat for the final 7:51 on Friday.

"Marco, he's playing at a very high level right now," Thibodeau said. "Pick-and-roll game, catch-and-shoot game, making plays for us, doing a little bit of everything."

After the game, Belinelli freely admitted the biggest reason for his slow start this season was he wasn't prepared for the sort of defensive intensity Thibodeau preaches.

"I love to play for this team," Belinelli said. "When you play a lot of minutes and you win the game, you're happy. I just need to keep going, play hard and win all the games we can."

Belinelli and Carlos Boozer each scored 22 points to lead the Bulls. Joakim Noah got into foul trouble trying to guard Jefferson, but managed to grab 13 rebounds.

Both teams have aggressive front lines, but the Bulls managed to squeak out a 21-17 edge on the offensive glass. Because of Utah's size, veteran backup center Nazr Mohammed posted season-highs in points (9) and minutes (20).

The Bulls now head out on a three-game California swing, playing the Lakers, Sacramento and Golden State while the Big Ten tournament moves into the United Center.

For Utah, this was its third straight road loss by a combined 5 points. The Jazz lost at Milwaukee in OT and blew a late 8-point lead in Cleveland.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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