Even going back to the years before Kirk Hinrich was traded to Washington, every time Joakim Noah mentions his teammate, he uses the self-created nickname Kirky-wirky.
Wednesday was no exception -- "Kirky-wirky, he was really big tonight," was the first thing Noah said to reporters in the locker room.
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Well, Hinrich did work hard in the Bulls' decisive 103-83 blowout of the Golden State Warriors at the United Center. Hinrich helped limit high-scoring guard Stephen Curry to just 5 points, then worked hard at getting out the locker-room door before anyone could ask him about the defensive effort.
When these teams met Feb. 6 in Oakland, Curry erupted for 34 points and the Warriors won by 15 points. In the rematch, Curry hit just 2 of 10 shots and matched his season low for points.
"He gives you that all the time," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I always say with Kirk, you can never measure his true value if you go by statistics. If you go by what he's doing for your team -- setting the tone for the defense with his ball pressure, his hustle plays, running your team. The things he does, it really unites and inspires your team. And he plays to win."
A few weeks ago there were rumors Golden State was trying to acquire Hinrich to bring some guard depth to the Bay Area. The Warriors settled for Steve Blake from the Lakers after the Bulls decided there was no reason to trade away Hinrich for a second time.
"We know how important he is," Thibodeau added. "He's a huge key for our team."
Golden State got power forward David Lee back from two games off with the flu, while center Andrew Bogut played for the second time after returning from an injury. But the Bulls pounded the Warriors inside.
Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 21 points, Carlos Boozer finished with 15 points and 13 boards, and Noah produced 17 rebounds, 8 points and 7 assists.
Another important player for the Bulls was Jimmy Butler, who returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a bruised rib. He scored 16 points in 37 minutes and had a role in the Warriors shooting 35.7 percent from the field.
"His defense, it allows you to do a lot more when you have him, Kirk, Jo, Taj," Thibodeau said. "It just gives you more things you can get to."
The Bulls are 5-10 this season when Butler misses games, but most of the losses came early in the season during the miserable stretch after Derrick Rose was injured.
Butler was able to appreciate the defensive effort to keep not only Curry in check but all five Golden State starters in single digits.
"That's the way we like it, taking players out of their game," Butler said. "It is frustrating for them."
The Bulls (31-26) improved to a season-best five games above .500, have won seven of their last eight and are 19-8 since Jan. 1.
"Today was a big win for us," said Noah, who turned 29 on Tuesday. "A team with great offensive firepower, one of the best teams in the West. To come out there and kick their butt like that feels great. There's no better feeling. I'm going to drive home really happy tonight."
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