Following a riveting three overtime victory in the United Center, the Bulls have a chance to close out their first round series with the Nets at Barclays Center.
That long game took its toll on the Bulls though. Kirk Hinrich will miss Game 5 with a bruised calf. Hinrich played 60 minutes in the triple overtime thriller, tallying 18 points and 14 assists. Hinrich was in a walking boot at shootaround today, clouding his status for the rest of the week.
With Hinrich out, it’ll be interesting how Tom Thibodeau changes the rotations. Nate Robinson will likely get the start, but he won’t be stopping Deron Williams much. Maybe the Bulls will go with Marco Belinelli at the point, and have Jimmy Butler guard Williams on defense. Who knows, but losing Kirk, especially on the defensive end, is going to really hurt the Bulls.
Hinrich wasn’t the only guy that the long game took a toll on. Joakim Noah’s 25 to 30 minute limit went out the window pretty much in regulation. Noah played just over 28 minutes in regulation, and then played the entire first and second overtimes before fouling out early in the third OT. He recorded just less than 39 minutes, well over the limit mark, but Thibs felt he needed the win and it wasn’t going to come without Noah.
But Noah wasn’t the most important part of this comeback—that distinction goes to the enigma that is Nate Robinson.
When Robinson got clocked by a Gerald Wallace screen, I joked that “you can’t kill Nate, you can only make him angry, which makes him shoot more.” I had no idea the offensive onslaught that was about to come from the little point guard that could. He dropped 23 points in the fourth quarter, on 9-11 from the field and dished two important assists when the Nets were overplaying him. He hit a few ridiculous shots, led by the go-ahead launch that he hit with 1.7 remaining in the first overtime.
Robinson took a game that the Bulls were out of—14 down with less than four minutes to go—and made it one of the most exciting playoff games of the past few years. But his, and the rest of the Bulls’, work is not finished. They have to win one more contest before they can switch their attention to the defending champs.
And that task just got harder with the news that Hinrich is out. Williams was shooting 35.4 percent in Brooklyn’s three losses this series. That’ll be where the Bulls miss Hinrich. Not to say Kirk wasn’t helping on the offensive end, but his defense on Williams was key in three single digit wins. It’s always been a team defense, slowing down Deron, but now that will be the case more than ever.
Marquis Teague might get his first real playoff minutes, after recording seven seconds earlier in the series. Teague scored eight points and had one turnover in 20 minutes against the Nets on December 15. Marco Belinelli, who played just four minutes in Game 4, will also get more run.
It’ll be an uphill battle winning in Brooklyn without two of their starting point guards. But if the Bulls have showed anything all season, including the last four minutes of regulation in Game 4, it’s that you should never count them out.