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Disjointed Bulls just hot enough for victory over Timberwolves

(MCT) — CHICAGO — Joakim Noah suffered a laceration on his left knee in the first quarter and returned. Kirk Hinrich strained his right hip and hamstring in the second quarter and didn’t.

This disjointedness fit a hot-and-cold affair Saturday night at the United Center.

When it ended, mercifully, the Bulls improved to 2-2 on their season-high, five-game homestand with an 87-80 victory over a Timberwolves team without Brandon Roy, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love.

Hinrich played just 58 seconds in relief of Nate Robinson in the second quarter and exited for good with 1 minute, 18 seconds remaining in the first half. It’s the third ailment already to plague the veteran guard after minor issues in the preseason with a sore thumb and groin.

The team called it a strained hip. Hinrich said it’s more his hamstring and gluteus and he would get an MRI on Sunday.

“Injuries suck, man,” Noah said. “We need him.”

Robinson offered a microcosm of the Bulls’ night in the second quarter. He scored 11 points in 11 minutes, kick-starting an 11-0 run preceded by 12 straight Bulls’ misses. But Robinson also committed five turnovers, three of them of the completely careless variety.

“I was killing us,” Robinson said. “I told Coach, ‘I ain’t gonna turn it over in the second half.’”

Robinson didn’t. And unlike in Thursday’s loss to the Thunder, the Bulls saved their best for last.

Marco Belinelli sank three 3-pointers in the first 2 minutes, 2 seconds of the fourth quarter as part of the Bulls’ most effective game — 6-for-13 — from that distance. Noah fired up the crowd with back-to-back blocks on the same possession, part of nine for the team.

And the Bulls held their 15th straight opponent dating to last season below 100 points, suffocating the Timberwolves into 38.8 percent shooting.

“Noah’s defense was outstanding,” Thibodeau said.

Robinson led the Bulls with 18 points. Noah added 17 points and four blocks. Luol Deng contributed 16.

The victory couldn’t obscure Carlos Boozer not scoring until two free throws with 4:29 left in the third. Boozer, who did have nine rebounds, four assists and three steals, missed all five shots in 26 minutes, his first game without a field goal since Nov. 18, 2003, in his second season.

“He has gotten some good looks,” Thibodeau said. “It’s just not going in for him. We just have to be patient. He rebounded well. He came up with some loose balls for us that were big. I think if he gets some easy baskets, it will come around for him.”

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