Chicago 96, Minnesota 85

CHICAGO, Jan. 29 (AP) -- Kirk Hinrich wasn't hesitating.

He was taking open jumpers, driving toward the basket, doing everything he could to score. And finally, the shots started falling.

Hinrich finished with 27 points after a rough start, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-85, spoiling Randy Foye's return from a knee injury Tuesday night.

"I felt like I was getting good looks, being aggressive,'' Hinrich said. "I just wasn't quite getting my legs underneath me on my shots and on my drives. So I was just trying to make a conscious effort of playing through fatigue and trying to get the job done.''

Hinrich found the energy -- and the stroke -- in time to lead the Bulls past a team that is showing signs of progress, even if it has the NBA's worst record. The Timberwolves had won three of four, beating Phoenix along the way, and the lone loss during that stretch was by one to Boston.

Foye, sidelined all season by a a stress reaction in his left kneecap, scored 11 points in 17 minutes and felt fine afterward.

"I just wanted to get a win tonight,'' Foye said.

Hinrich made sure that didn't happen.

He hit a jumper midway through the third quarter to break a 49-49 tie after missing 11 of his first 12 shots. His layup two minutes later made it 57-55, and the Bulls started to pull away. He scored 12 points in the period as Chicago built a 71-62 lead.

Andres Nocioni added 18 points for Chicago, which had lost three of four, and the Bulls got a solid outing from Joakim Noah (10 points, 13 rebounds).

The Timberwolves never challenged in the fourth.

They hit just 1 of 14 3-pointers, and they couldn't get much going inside during the second half. Ben Wallace contained Al Jefferson in the final two quarters, contributed four steals and finished with 12 rebounds, helping Chicago to a 48-36 edge on the glass.

"Ben Wallace's defense on Al Jefferson was fantastic, especially in the second half,'' interim coach Jim Boylan said. "Al is really talented and has improved the last couple of seasons. Ben is good down there in the post. That is a big part of our ability to win the game tonight.''

Jefferson scored 13 of his 20 points in the first half and grabbed 12 rebounds, after delivering a career-high 40 and pulling down 19 rebounds against New Jersey on Sunday. Rashad McCants got going in the second half, scoring all but two of his 16 points, and Marko Jaric scored 14.

It was a rough night for the Timberwolves, even though they welcomed back one of their best players and the Bulls were again missing their stars -- guard Ben Gordon (sprained right wrist) and forward Luol Deng (left Achilles tendinitis).

"It's going to take awhile,'' Foye said. "I'm not expecting to come out and score 50 points, shut someone down. ... Whatever time (coach Randy Wittman) gives me, I'm going to play as hard as I can.''

Foye entered the game with 4:16 left in the first quarter and missed his first two shots, but found his stroke early in the second. He scored seven points in the opening 1:45 of the period, hitting a 3-pointer, and although his minutes were limited, his knee appeared to be fine.

An NBA all-rookie team selection last season, Foye is a key figure as the Timberwolves rebuild following an offseason overhaul in which they sent Kevin Garnett to Boston. He averaged 10.1 points, 2.8 assists and 22.9 minutes while playing all 82 games last year.

Foye said he bruised the knee in summer league and continued to play on it, aggravating the condition. He appeared in three preseason games before shutting it down.

He initially expected to miss several weeks, but the injury was slow to heal. He started practicing on a limited basis on Jan. 7 and began participating in all drills about a week ago.

"They put me through a lot of conditioning workouts leading up to this, so I felt great,'' Foye said. "The only thing is I felt a step behind. Certain times I felt as though I could blow past certain people, but I just didn't. I wanted to set the offense up.''

Notes: The teams meet again Wednesday in Minneapolis. ... The Timberwolves are 0-13 against the Bulls when Garnett was not on their roster. ... The Bulls hired Mike Brown as an assistant coach to work with their big men. Brown, a teammate of general manager John Paxson with the Bulls in the 1980s, is expected to join the team for Saturday's game at Sacramento and figures to spend much of his time working with Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Aaron Gray. ... Besides Gordon and Deng, Chicago was missing G Chris Duhon (sprained left knee) and F Joe Smith (flu-like symptoms).

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