On most nights, Kirk Hinrich’s contributions to the Bulls can’t be measured statistically.
To an extent that applies to even the games when the floor general has it going offensively, such as Monday night, when Hinrich scored 18 points in the Bulls’ 89-77 win over the Pacers at the United Center. Although Hinrich’s timely outside shooting was crucial in the victory, another play, one more characteristic of the veteran’s game, defined what he brings to the table.
With just over four minutes to go in the third quarter, Pacers’ All-Star small forward Paul George was cruising in for a seemingly easy, uncontested fast-break layup. Then, Hinrich came out of nowhere and ripped the ball out of George’s hands and took it the other way.
[MORE: Bulls flex their muscle in win over Pacers]
Jimmy Butler ended up with it and although he missed his own attempted layup in transition, sixth man Taj Gibson followed it up with a vicious put-back dunk. While Gibson, who scored a game-high 23 points, got the majority of the accolades, Hinrich’s presence couldn’t be ignored.
“It’s great. When you have great hustle plays, great effort plays, those type of things unite and inspire your team. So sometimes things aren’t perfect, but if your ball pressure is great, your effort’s great, your weak side is aware and you don’t quit on a play, something good can transpire. And oftentimes, you see a guy hustling back and the blind pass is thrown to the wing, and that guy steals it and then he turns around, and goes down and instead of giving up an easy bucket, you’re getting the easy bucket down on the other end. Those things are huge, okay? And the more things that you can do like that, it enhances your chances of winning. So that’s why you have to look for those characteristics in players. That’s what makes Kirk so good,” Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought the energy was great. I thought the way he got us up the floor, I thought kicking the ball quickly to the second side, getting to the second pick-and-roll, those things are big. Getting the ball up the floor before the defense is set and he feels great. His defense is outstanding and he’s a terrific leader. He doesn’t get enough credit for he’s the guy running our team.”
[WATCH: Taj Gibson dunks all over the Pacers]
As for Hinrich, he downplayed the play in his typical matter-of-fact fashion.
“Well, I got back and thought about fouling him, and the ball just kind of presented itself, so I just kind of put my hands on the ball. I think he thought I was going to foul him. So it was just fortunate there because with him barreling down on me, the type of athlete he is, it’s usually not good. It’s either going to be a foul or you definitely don’t want to give him a three-point play,” he explained. “I didn’t get to the point where I was going to try to wrap him up. He just kind of came into me and the ball, it was just like it kind of stuck out to me, so I just kind of put my hands on the ball.”
Maybe he didn’t feel the need to beat his chest about it because that’s what we’ve come to expect from Hinrich. But explosive offensive outings are fewer and far between these days, as backup point guard D.J. Augustin usually is the scorer out of the two players who share the position. However, Hinrich can still produce when needed, as evidenced by his back-to-back jumpers in the fourth quarter on a night when Augustin shot 2-for-8 from the field.
“I felt like I had a good rhythm the whole time,” Hinrich said. “I just wanted to come out in the second half and be aggressive because they’re a team that coming off the pick-and-roll, I’ve got to look at the rim to open everything else up.”