When playing those low-scoring slugfests against Indiana, it really helps the Bulls' cause if they're knocking down outside shots.
Kirk Hinrich delivered in Monday's 89-77 victory over the Pacers by hitting 7 of 13 attempts from the field for 18 points.
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Over the years, Bulls fans have gotten used to the idea that Hinrich's not an exceptional spot-up shooter. But he has made an interesting transformation this season.
Before the all-star break, Hinrich really struggled with his shot, connecting on 36.4 percent overall and just 28.8 percent from 3-point range.
Since the break, though, Hinrich is shooting 44.3 percent overall and a stellar 49.2 from 3-point land. Asked how he made that happen, Hinrich didn't offer any revelations.
"Really just staying with it, having confidence that my percentages were going to even out," he said. "My teammates encouraged me. (I) tried to get in extra work when I can. But really just staying with it and not losing confidence."
After Monday's game, Hinrich was sporting a fat lip -- not surprising, since most Bulls-Pacers games approach mixed martial-arts levels of contact.
"It's just one of those things where it's going to be a fight," Hinrich said. "Every cut's going to be challenged; every shot's going to be challenged. It really forces you to be sharp. That's why I think doing a much better job in transition was huge for us, because in a game where you're having a hard time scoring, to give teams easy points in transition really hurts you."
Pacers still not sharing:
The Pacers have been struggling lately, going 5-7 in their last 12 games. They still own the best home record in the league, though, at 32-4 and have a 2-game edge over Miami for the top seed in the East heading into Wednesday's home game against the Heat.
After losing to the Bulls, though, the Pacers repeated recent themes about a lack of ball movement. Indiana finished with just 11 assists Monday, compared to 27 when it beat the Bulls on Friday in Indianapolis.
"We looked terrible tonight as a group," forward David West said, according to the Indy Star-News. "Guys individually just look so bad. … We're not playing well. We're not shooting the ball well. We're not sharing it, and when we're not sharing it, we become stagnant."
Added center Roy Hibbert: "We've just got to learn … to play for each other like how we used to and set people up for easy shots. Everything we're taking is very tough, contested shots. … It's just a lot of 1-on-1 basketball."
Playoff tickets for the first two rounds will go on sale Friday at 11 a.m. at the United Center, bulls.com, NBAtickets.com and 1-800-4NBA-TIX. Fans attending playoff games are encouraged to wear red. … Kirk Hinrich on the three-day break before the Bulls host Portland on Friday: "Yeah, it's been a tough stretch. It will be nice to get some rest." … Former Bulls fan favorite Brian Scalabrine reportedly is being reassigned to Santa Cruz in the D-League by Golden State. Scalabrine had been an assistant on Mark Jackson's staff.