Hinrich or not, Bulls out to oust Nets
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Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, suffering from a bruised left calf, is hoping he can play in Thursday's Game 6 against the Brooklyn Nets.
The Bulls moved the interview area at the Berto Center about 60 feet farther from the locker-room hallway to provide more space for the crowd of reporters.
The increased distance also provided a larger sample of Kirk Hinrich limping on a bruised left calf. He was no longer wearing a walking boot but still moving slowly Wednesday.
After sitting out Game 5 in Brooklyn, Hinrich's availability for Thursday's Game 6 at the United Center remains in doubt.
"I'm not ruling it out. I hope I can," Hinrich said Wednesday. "It's going to be a game-time decision, I'm sure. I have to improve some, definitely."
That part was obvious as Hinrich slowly hobbled back toward the locker room, while television cameras scrambled to get the best view.
Whether or not the veteran point guard plays, the Bulls are faced with a simple task in Game 6 — deliver their best effort and end this first-round series against Brooklyn.
The Bulls lead 3-2, so a victory means a second-round matchup with Miami, while a loss sends the series to a decisive Game 7 on Saturday at the Barclays Center.
No matter how this series turns out, Game 1 of the second round at Miami will be played Monday, the NBA announced.
Luol Deng and Taj Gibson both missed Wednesday's practice due to illness, but the hope is they'll be able to play.
Hinrich suffered his injury early in Game 4 but stayed on the floor and played nearly 60 minutes in the triple-overtime victory. Now he said swelling will have to subside to give him a chance to play Thursday.
"I'm still walking very gingerly," Hinrich said. "I haven't tried to run or cut or jump or anything else. So I'm hoping that it will improve a lot between here and tomorrow. I have to be able to get up on my toes and support my weight.
"Really, it's been a tiring, nonstop treatment of it. I feel like if I can go out there and help the team, I'm definitely going to play."
With all the injuries the Bulls have endured this season, Hinrich seems to be one of the most vital pieces to the lineup. Including the 110-91 loss Monday at Brooklyn, the Bulls are 7-16 this season when Hinrich doesn't play.
He's vital to their defensive effort, offensive execution and ball distribution, but there's certainly more to it than that. The Bulls gave up 106 points in Game 1 and 134 points in Game 4 with Hinrich on the floor. Brooklyn scored 82 and 76 points in Games 2 and 3, respectively.
"There are certain things that are important in every game that you have to get established and usually determine winning and losing," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We always talk about it — defend, rebound, low turnover, inside-out, share the ball.
"We always measure ourselves in those categories. It doesn't matter if it's a regular-season game or a playoff game."
Rebounds were an issue in Game 5, when the Nets built a 24-12 advantage in second-chance points. Thibodeau also talked Wednesday about the Bulls "finishing their defense" and avoiding possessions where they force a tough shot but then give up an offensive rebound.
If Hinrich doesn't play Thursday, Nate Robinson figures to start again, though Thibodeau would not confirm the lineup. Except for a poor performance in Game 2, Nets point guard Deron Williams has been tough to stop all series.
How much the Bulls' overall team defense suffers when Robinson plays instead of Hinrich is difficult to measure.
This fact remains — the Bulls are 4-0 against Brooklyn this season at the United Center and have a strong history of rising to the occasion, no matter the opponent.
Short-handed or not, their best effort should give them a good chance of moving on.
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