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Bulls just play better with Kirk Hinrich

DerWilliams Kirk Hinrich

Deron Williams, Kirk Hinrich

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Updated: June 2, 2013 6:32AM



Gerald Wallace didn’t feel like making the point once was enough.

“We’re the better team,’’ the Brooklyn forward said.

And he said it repeatedly to waves of reporters after his team’s 110-91 win over the Bulls in Game 5 on Monday

Memo to both teams: Series aren’t won or lost in the media. They’re won on the court, which the Bulls will be looking to do in a second consecutive elimination game Thursday at the United Center.

Now, if only Kirk Hinrich’s bruised left calf would cooperate.

Coach Tom Thibodeau has frequently defended the importance of having a healthy Hinrich, and now it’s becoming apparent that he was entirely accurate.

They’re a different team without Hinrich and they’re a bad team. Including Monday’s loss, the Bulls are 7-16 when Hinrich is in street clothes.

To reinforce the point, the Nets are 1-5 against the Bulls this season in games in which Hinrich has played.

Finally, there’s the matchup with Deron Williams. At first glance, Hinrich doesn’t seem to be a factor against the Nets point guard. Williams averaged 19 points a game when Hinrich played and 19.3 when he didn’t. No big deal? Well, actually it is.

Williams shot 42.8 percent with Nate Robinson being his primary defender. That includes his hot third quarter that saw him score 13 points on 4 of 7 shooting.

In the first four games when Hinrich was locking him up, Williams made 13-of-39 (33.3 percent).

So as much as Thibodeau likes to insist that “next man has to step up and do the job,’’ it’s a job that only Hinrich is qualified for.

“It’s what he’s done all year,’’ Thibodeau said of Hinrich. “The way he runs the team, he’s a two-way player, plays great defense, knows how to run the team, great leader. He’s had a terrific season for us, but we also feel like we have more than enough to win here.’’

Maybe so.

And there’s no doubt Robinson has been a huge offensive threat in this series. But even Robinson knows that when he’s on the bench to start the game and Hinrich is out there, the team is better.

“For us, he’s our captain,’’ Robinson said. “That’s like [New England quarterback] Tom Brady going down and somebody else coming in and filling in for him. That’s tough. At the same time, you got to be ready and I know all of us are ready to pick up somebody when they are down. If Kirk plays or he doesn’t, we have to be ready regardless.’’

There wasn’t a big change in Hinrich on Tuesday. A witness said he was still having pain walking and putting weight on the leg.

What the Bulls have on their side is time as Game 6 isn’t until Thursday.

“Being down ‘Kirkie,’ I knew it was going to be tough, it was going to be a challenge,’’ Robinson said. “But at the same time, we’ve been here before. It’s something we got to do. We got to muster up something and bring that energy and continue to play like we’ve been playing.’’



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