Hinrich’s absence allows Williams to flourish.
In a season in which the Chicago Bulls have faced constant questions over whether or not Derrick Rose would return, the absence of another point guard may well be of more importance in the next few days.
With their 110-91 win at the Barclays Center on Monday night, the Brooklyn Nets cut their deficit to 3-2 in their opening round playoff series with Chicago, who had one notable absentee after the classic in the Windy City on Saturday.
Suffering from a bruised calf, Kirk Hinrich sat out after playing a gruelling 60 minutes in the triple overtime thriller, and his absence was clearly felt on the court.
For all of his ability on the offensive end, Nate Robinson remains an average defensive point guard, surrendering both height and quickness of mind when moving in the defensive phase.
As a result, counterpart Deron Williams was able to pace the Nets, and finished the game with 23 points and 10 assists as he grew into an integral role in the win.
Brook Lopez undoubtedly had a big effect on the result too, as did the Brooklyn bench, yet it is Williams’ ability to pass relatively unchallenged in the lane for the easy lay-up or the pull-up three that eased the pressure on the Nets throughout the game.
That type of game suits the Nets, as they possess better depth and more options to out-score the Bulls, who heavily rely on a solid defensive showing to turn the screw on their opponents.
Hinrich has contributed with points and assists in the series so far, but perhaps his defensive work hadn’t received it’s due credit up until Monday night.
Aside from the anomaly in Game 4, Hinrich restricted Williams to 18 points and just 4 assists in Game 3, while D-Will had just eight points and 10 assists in Game 2, both of which the Bulls won.
Granted they failed to execute in the first match-up, but his constant hustle and tireless defensive pressure takes its toll on Williams, and can clearly bother him.
Game 6 takes place on Thursday at the United Center, and the Bulls know that they ideally would like to finish the series at home rather than face a deciding-game trip back to Brooklyn as the Miami Heat watch on.
While the question has been “When is D Rose coming back?” all season, perhaps the more important question is whether Hinrich, and not Rose, will be back to help the cause.