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Preseason Bulls vs. Timberwolves: Looking for the bench to show up

Luol Deng and Rip Hamilton are out tonight. The revamped Bulls bench has struggled throughout the first two games of the preseason. The Bulls are hoping the third time is a charm tonight against the Timberwolves.

Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

[Per KC Johnson: , Deng and Rip are out tonight. Deng has a sore groin and Rip is old. Belinelli and Butler will be the starting wings -yfbb]

After last night's ugly 86-83 loss to the Cavs that left coach Tom Thibodeau seething, the Bulls get right back to work tonight against the Timberwolves.

I admittedly didn't see that much of last night's game, catching random snippets here and there. I was very impressed with the intensity they came out with in the second half, although it would have been nice to see them start that way. Kirk Hinrich was once again pretty damn good, outplaying Kyrie Irving by a decent margin, which is about the last thing I expected to happen. The Bulls also did work in transition and on the glass (19-3 differential in fast break points, 24 offensive rebounds), which will be keys this year if the halfcourt offense consistently struggles.

But the new bench was bad again, marking the second straight game that's happened. I guess you can give them credit for fighting back at the very end, but on the whole, the performance was quite the suck fest. A quick breakdown of what we've seen from the bench so far:

  • Marco Belinelli, the new guy I was most upbeat about, has been pretty dreadful. He's missed several wide open threes and has generally been awful on the defensive end. He was a wretched -22 last night, by far the worst on the team.
  • After a strong performance in the first game, Nate Robinson went 1-11 in 16 minutes last night. Robinson probably shouldn't be taking 16 shots in 11 minutes even if he's knocking shots down, but he definitely shouldn't be if he's tossing up bricks. However, this is what we'll likely see with him all year. It'll be a roller coaster.
  • Jimmy Butler's offense is still a major work in progress. 3-18 through two games and a bit out of control. He did get to the line six times last night, so that's nice. Defensively he's been his usual self.
  • Nazr Mohammed has been surprisingly really good. He's been active on the boards, especially on offense. Seven offensive rebounds in each of the first two games gave the Bulls valuable extra possessions. I expected very little from Mohammed and who knows how he holds up over the course of a long season, but early returns are nice.
  • I didn't see any of Marquis Teague's five minutes, but I saw he went 0-3. So that's 0-5 with three turnovers in nine minutes in the two games. Yuck.
  • Vladimir Radmanovic had a sweet dunk last night. And that's really all I got for him.
  • Taj Gibson is Taj Gibson. Active as ever and somebody I'm not worried about. He's been a bit sloppy with the ball, but again, not too worried about him.

So having said all this, the only thing I'm really looking for tonight is better play from these guys. I'm willing to be pretty patient with this group, because there's some potential for good things here. But I'd still like to see some improvement in these meaningless games so I don't feel like complete crap heading into the regular season.

As for the T-Wolves, I'm interested to see how Brandon Roy plays, and I'm looking forward to watching future Bull Kevin Love (HA!).

Game is 7:00 p.m. CT on WGN America/NBA TV.