CHICAGO – Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, a 32-year-old veteran with 743 career games that have worn down his body, is still capable of playing against and guarding the game’s elite.
Hinrich logged a game-high 59:36 in the Bulls’ 134-142 triple overtime win Saturday against the Nets, and most of his minutes came with the responsibility of trying to shut down Brooklyn guard Deron Williams. But Hinrich did much more than that. Hinrich scored 18 points and tallied a game-high 14 assists for his first double-double in the playoffs since May 17, 2007 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against Detroit.
“Don’t underestimate the game Kirk Hinrich played,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “He scored the ball for us when he had to, he got everyone involved when he had to and played amazing defense.”
Hinrich helped limit Williams to 11 of 25 shooting from the field and pestered him into committing a game-high seven turnovers.
“It was unbelievable,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had one of the toughest covers in the league in Deron Williams. He is constantly in motion running through pick and rolls. He’s always moving and cutting and Kirk has to fight through that and gets hit probably a 100 times.”
Robinson and Watson square off: Bulls guard Nate Robinson and Nets guard C.J. Watson will never be confused as on-court buddies.
Tensions that had been building the entire series boiled over with 7:13 left in the second quarter when Robinson fouled Watson near the Brooklyn bench. The two locked arms and became tangled near the scorer’s table, prompting players from both teams rush over from the court. Both received technical fouls, within the next minute Robinson picked up his third foul and was pulled from the game.
“I know C.J. well, and Nate obviously,” Thibodeau said. “Both are great competitors. It’s the playoffs and guys are going to go after each other. If it’s talking that’s fine, but I really want him to focus on playing.”
Mohammed steps up: As the season has progressed, center Nazr Mohammed, a Chicago native, watched his minutes slowly increase.
For a third consecutive game, Mohammed logged double-digit minutes finishing with 18:32 in Friday’s win. He added nine points and six rebounds, but his most important contributions came in the third overtime. Mohammed's layup with 32.6 seconds remaining gave the Bulls a five-point lead, and he added a putback off Carlos Boozer's missed free throw with 19 seconds left to make it a two-possession game, 140-134.
Mohammed said he realized he might play in overtime after watching Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Boozer play with five fouls.
“You’ve got to stay ready,” Mohammed said. “The worst thing you can do is get an opportunity and not be ready.
“I started stretching at about the end of the first overtime and getting loose because I knew there was a chance I might get thrown back in there, and it actually happened.”