Now we all know Kirk Hinrich is just the worst, and everything wrong with the Bulls. And perhaps humanity. But the captain finally escaped from that well he was trapped in the past couple of weeks and showed why the Bulls still need him in their 96-87 win over the Hornets. Though he had a Hinrichian scoring line* of 5 points on 2-7 shooting in his 31 minutes, he also provided a season-high 10 assists in that time. With 3 steals and holding Greivis Vasquez to 5-16 shooting and drawing a couple charges, the gritty defense was there too. And boy, were we hearing about it on the broadcast. Though crazily enough, it stopped when I muted it. Not sure how that worked, but I am considering trying it more in the future.
No foolin': the Bulls simply looked and played better with Hinrich back in the starting PG role, he was +11 in his time while Nate Robinson was a -2, managing to miss more shots than Hinrich and have only one assist in his 17 minutes. The Hornets would make relative gains whenever Thibs called for a bench unit tonight, and who knows how the tide might have turned if Nazr Mohammed didn't improbably hit 2 jumpers in the second quarter. OK, maybe that wasn't as much monumental as it was surprising.
A key was even when the Bulls missed, they did a good job getting another chance at it. The Bulls overpowered the Hornets on the offensive glass (33% ORR to 25%) and were led by All-Star Joakim Noah on the inside all night. Noah had 5 of his 17 rebounds come on the offensive side of the floor, and overcame a sloppy start offensively to finish with 15 points on 6-11 shooting. He probably looked fine, but to these eyes he'll probably always be favoring his sore feet. Carlos Boozer wasn't hyper-efficient but made some finishes inside as well. Luol Deng got his shooting stroke back, at least for a game, with 20 points on 13 shots. Maybe it's all Hinrich setting them up appropriately. Did you know he even misses on purpose to help teammates get these offensive rebounds? Didn't even think about that, did you?
The Hornets were able to hurt the Bulls when they could run, a rare weakness teams have found with this team defensively this season. While it meant a couple spectacular lobs to Anthony Davis, there were also a lot of hurried opportunities that they botched. The Bulls did a great job limiting the Hornets to shoot from the more inefficient zone of midrange. I think the Bulls D was a bit unlucky that guys like Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jason Smith hit as much as they did. Eric Gordon had some sporadic effectiveness and helped bring the Hornets to within 1 in the fourth quarter, but for much of the second half it was the Bulls comfortably being ahead.
This is not an insignificant win on this schedule. The Bulls were riding a 3 game losing streak heading into the break, and the Hornets are better talent-wise than their record suggests, and I think their dead arena can make visitors susceptible to off nights. With Thursdays game against Miami, tonight's game avoided a potentially very long losing streak. Then again, the Bulls do quite alright against the Heat in the regular season.
*Did you know Kirk Hinrich at 39% from three this season? Or, like me, did your firery hate of a thousand suns think he was as shitty as he started the season? He does usually heat up once the pressure's off, too bad every body part is falling off and he fell down that well and stuff. Maybe he'll have a better second half too, and hopefully as a backup.