BOSTON - Since he tore his left plantar fascia, Rip Hamilton was supposed to be on a minutes limit -- typically around 20 minutes a game -- but after Luol Deng had to leave Friday night's overtime win over Boston, Bulls head coach leaned on the veteran shooting guard, who scored a team-high 20 points on the evening.
"You know what's crazy? After the third quarter, usually I'm done. But with Luol going out, there was probably a chance that he would put me back in the game and 'Griff' Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin came up to me in the fourth quarter. He was like, 'Hey, man. Stay ready because Coach is going to put you back in the game,' so it was just one of those things where we didn't expect it going into the game, but with the circumstances, with Lu going out, he put me back in," Hamilton explained afterwards.
When asked by a Boston reporter about soaking his foot in an ice bucket postgame, Hamilton quipped, "Thibs...that's the reason why I'm doing it, because of Thibs. Thibs' practices."
"I can play heavy minutes. That's not a problem. That's just something that Thibs wants to do. That's one of the things that he talked about when I first came back. He asked me and I was like, 'Yo, I can play. I'm good,' and he was like, 'Hey, you know what? I'm going to keep your minutes down,' so I was just like, 'Hey, whatever you need me to do, that's what I'm going to do," Hamilton said.
Thibodeau was complimentary of Hamilton's play afterwards, though he didn't hesitate to mention the starter's high minutes, which totaled 32 on the night.
"Rip was very good. He scored the ball for us," he said. "He probably played a few too many minutes, so that led to a couple of turnovers - we've got to get the turnovers down - but I liked the way he played."
Key defensive play symbolizes Bulls' philosophy
With 9.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah trapped Boston's Paul Pierce, forcing a held-ball situation with the Celtics ahead, 88-86.
Noah won the ensuing jump ball, which eventually led to Kirk Hinrich's game-tying jumper with two seconds remaining in regulation, sending the game into overtime.
Afterwards, the Bulls discussed the significance of the sequence, which went exactly how Thibodeau diagrammed it in the timeout leading up to it.
"Well, there's a few things you're trying to get done. But before you just get to the foul part, you want to see if you can make a play. Sometimes, there's a bobble, a slip, so you're looking for that," Thibodeau explained. "Joakim and Jimmy are pretty good in those situations and we almost had the one before that, and Marquis just missed it."
When asked about the Bulls' strategy, Butler added: "When they throw it in, make them throw it my way. Then, Jo just trapped, don't foul.
"Literally, the play happened exactly like Thibodeau drew it up. Make them throw the ball towards the corner, and me and Jo go and trap. Jo went and trapped, and won the jump ball," he continued. "It's crazy because we worked on situations like that. Jo being an aggressive defender, myself being an aggressive defender. I felt like it was bound to happen."
Referring to Pierce, a seasoned veteran, Noah chimed in: "Veteran or rookie, in that situation, when you're trapped in the corner with time running out, it's not an easy situation to get out of, no matter who it is."
"It was a huge play, I think the basketball gods were definitely on our side. It was a competitive game. We got a few bounces to go our way, but the great thing is a lot of people stepped up tonight and we competed as a team the whole way, so it was a great game to be part of."
As for Hinrich, who fouled in the overtime period, he downplayed his big shot, telling CSNChicago.com, "It just rolled to me and I just let it go."
Robinson excited about return to Boston
Bulls backup point guard Nate Robinson was a member of the Celtics when Boston returned to the NBA Finals in 2010, losing to the Lakers.
Still, he regards that period of his career as a special time. Prior to Friday night's Bulls win, Robinson told CSNChicago.com that the contest was his first game back in the TD BankNorth Garden since the Celtics traded him to Oklahoma City in 2011.
"They made sure they had my Finals jersey...
"It was great memories, man. The fans here were always great. They were always nice, cheered, supported. For me, this is my first game back since I got traded from the Celtics. For me, it's going to be fun to be out there. It's going to be interesting to see how the fans react to me coming back, but it's not about me. It's about us getting a win," he told CSNChicago.com. "It helped me a lot with Doc and when Thibs was over there. They helped me out with preparing myself properly for the game. It's been helping me in the last few years of my career and hopefully, it can take me to an even higher level with my game as a player, as a person and on top of that, as a competitor. Right now, Coach has been on me in making sure that I know where everybody is on the court and being more of a leader, and to me, it's making me more of a better player."
Robinson contributed 11 points Friday, but before the game, he was ecstatic that the Celtics equipment managers left his NBA Finals jersey in his stall in the visiting locker room.
Celtics' Garnett, Rondo praise Bulls' Deng, Noah
Although the Bulls and Celtics have a fairly intense rivalry, there's a lot of respect between the two squads. That was evident before Friday night's overtime thriller, as Celtics head coach Doc Rivers and future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett cited Bulls teammates Joakim Noah and Luol Deng as worthy of All-Star Game consideration.
"Luol's always played to a top notch. I think Noah's play is starting to increase. I think he's getting better," said Garnett, who also mentioned the injured Derrick Rose. "Those are the people who stand out right away."
Rivers added: "You named them Deng and Noah all. You're doing my job for me.
"But yeah, I think both of them deserve it, especially with their record. I'd be surprised if both of them are not on it," he continued. "Carlos Boozer is playing well, but I think the first two are the two that I honestly have my focus on."
Rivers went on to talk about the dinner he had Thursday evening with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau on the night of his former assistant's 55th birthday.
"Well, I had to pay last night because it was his birthday and our new deal is if it's in Boston, I pay. If it's in Chicago-uh, uh-he pays. That was the old deal. I paid both places, but now, he picks up in Chicago. Now, I've got to get him to pick up the phone when he's in Chicago," he quipped. "I think he's done an exceptional job. We went to dinner last night. The first thing I told him was, 'By the way, your team's pretty good without Derrick.' I said, 'That's No. 1,' but he is their best player and when you take off the best player off the team, and they still do what they're doing, that says a lot about Thibs, in my opinion, and obviously, the players, too. They can't do it without him, but I think his intensity and his belief that you're going to win with a man down has to spill over to them. All he cares about is winning and I think they feel that."
The ever-secretive Thibodeau insisted he didn't do anything for his birthday - "Got ready for the game" - but then joked, "It sure is a boring birthday, but that's me."
NBA issues statement on Bulls-Raptors game
The league issued a statement Friday about the ending of Wednesday night's Bulls win over the Raptors in Toronto: "With one second remaining in overtime of the Chicago Bulls-Toronto Raptors game on January 16, officials called a foul on Chicago's Joakim Noah as Toronto's Amir Johnson gathered the ball while driving to the basket. The officials ruled the foul was on the floor but upon review at the league office, the video replay confirmed that the foul should have been called a shooting foul with Johnson receiving two free throws."