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Hinrich scores 24 as Bulls beat Heat
With three days of no Bulls basketball thanks to the All-Star break, there's plenty of time for some math.
Over the last three seasons, the Bulls have averaged a 19-11 record after the All-Star Game.
Even a sportswriter can figure out a similar finish would put the Bulls at 40-42 after Thursday's 99-92 victory over the Heat pushed their record to a nobody-would-have-guessed-it 21-31 at the break.
Then again, little has gone according to plan or followed recent history in this turbulent season.
Heck, Thabo Sefolosha even got booed at game's end despite scoring 19 points with 12 rebounds and four steals. His transgression? He missed a free throw with 12 seconds left to deny fans a free sandwich as part of a fast-food restaurant promotion and then held the ball rather than shooting at the buzzer.
Too bad the Bulls play the horrific Heat only once more. Miami tied an NBA record for futility by losing for the 24th time in 25 games, including nine straight overall and 12 straight on the road.
"It's a good way for us to enter the break," interim coach Jim Boylan said. "We're trying to get something going, and the guys really played with a lot of effort."
The Bulls played without Ben Wallace, Luol Deng and Ben Gordon but received multiple contributions to pull away late.
Leading just 89-87, Kirk Hinrich — is he a starter yet? — hit a tough jumper while falling to the ground for a four-point lead with 2 minutes 18 seconds remaining.
The Bulls then swarmed Dwyane Wade, who scored a game-high 30, and he had to pass to Mark Blount, who badly missed a jumper from the elbow. Sefolosha attacked the rim on the ensuing fast break, got fouled and drained both free throws for a six-point edge.
After a Heat timeout, Tyrus Thomas stole an inbounds pass from Shawn Marion and made one of two free throws after getting fouled on the break.
Thomas drew the start for Wallace, who left the team because of a death in his family, and finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds as the Bulls enjoyed a 53-35 rebounding edge.
"I just tried to play hard," Thomas said.
Thomas was one of three Bulls with double-doubles, joining Sefolosha and Joe Smith, who finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds. That's the first time since April 11, 2005, that three Bulls accomplished this.
Hinrich, who came off the bench for the second straight game after missing three with bruised ribs, scored 24 to lead the Bulls.
Plenty had been made about Boylan's decision to make starters earn their spots after returning from injury, but his sarcasm all but confirmed Hinrich would be starting when the Bulls resume Wednesday in New Jersey.
"Maybe I'll keep him coming off the bench the rest of the season," Boylan cracked.
The Bulls finally enjoyed a laugher.