Only this time Hinrich took the brunt of a Dirk Nowitzki elbow and it floored him, looking frighteningly similar to a boxer going down for the count. This came barely three minutes into the Bulls' 102-94 loss to the Mavericks at the United Center.
Although he didn't lose consciousness, Hinrich suffered a bruised jaw and a concussion and had some memory problems, Bulls athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi said. Hinrich was taken to Rush University Medical Center and was released after the results of a CT scan came back normal.
Hinrich suffered the injuries while trying to stop Nowitzki in the post. Nowitzki was driving hard against Tyson Chandler, and Hinrich positioned himself to help.
Nowitzki's elbow connected with Hinrich's jaw and knocked down Hinrich under the basket. It hurt Nowitzki enough that the 7-foot, 245-pound forward held his elbow a few minutes later.
"I saw an opening and was driving to the basket," said Nowitzki, who scored a game-high 35 points. "I really don't know what happened as I thought I got fouled. I saw Chandler all the way, and that's why I accelerated to the basket. I never saw Hinrich there."
Nowitzki literally battered the Bulls, although there was nothing flagrant about the contact. With 3 minutes 1 second left in the fourth quarter, Luol Deng also fell victim to an elbow by Nowitzki and lost a front tooth. Deng left briefly and returned to finish with 25 points. Only Ben Gordon had more points for the Bulls, with 26.
The Bulls are scheduled to leave for Orlando on Tuesday afternoon for a Wednesday night game against the Magic. Deng will undergo extensive dental work in the morning and Hinrich will be re-evaluated.
Even without Hinrich, the Bulls put up a fight--some of the time. They made scrappy defensive plays in the fourth quarter, including one that sent Chris Duhon crashing into the Bulls' bench. But for every gritty play, there was a breakdown.
"If everyone knew what exactly we were supposed to be doing out there, they'd be shocked at how bad it really was," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said.
"We're just not guarding anybody," Duhon said. "If we keep allowing teams to shoot a high percentage and score 100 points, we're going to lose a lot of games."
The Bulls have given up 100 points or more seven times and they have won only two such games.
"Everybody hasn't committed to playing [defense]," Duhon said. "That's everybody as a whole. At times we think because we're shooting the ball better we can just outscore teams. That's not the way we can win games."
Like the Bulls, the Mavericks also were short-handed. Jason Terry did not return after halftime because of a sore right hamstring. He departed with only two points.
Injuries in the season's early going led the Mavericks to sign free-agent small forward Adrian Griffin late last month. Griffin was a captain for the Bulls last season, and general manager John Paxson considered re-signing him before deciding to look for a post player.
Griffin had 14 points and 12 rebounds against the Bulls.