CHICAGO -- Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson haven't practiced together on the floor all season. That didn't seem to matter Friday night as the diminutive pair helped spark the Chicago Bulls offense in more ways than just setting it up.
Hinrich and Robinson combined for 47 points in a 103-87 win over the Golden State Warriors, going 18-for-27 from the field. Hinrich, the veteran leader who has struggled all season with his shot, hit six 3-pointers and gave the rest of his teammates confidence throughout the night.
"I think it gives us a lot," Hinrich said of the super small lineup that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went with at times on Friday. "Tonight, they were a small team as well so it worked out really well. We went smaller -- we haven't ever really done it in practice. It's just one of those things where you just go out there and play to our strengths and try to make the right basketball play."
What Thibodeau will love about their combo performance is that they also combined for eight assists and helped spread the floor for the rest of their teammates. It's not a coincidence that the Bulls’ front court of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Jimmy Butler all had double-doubles with Hinrich and Robinson leading the charge.
"I thought Kirk and Nate were terrific together," Thibodeau said. "They played well off each other. It's one of the reasons we signed Kirk. He has played both the positions and played both well. He and Nate can go back and forth."
With Derrick Rose out of the lineup and Luol Deng resting a bad hamstring, Golden State decided to live with Hinrich and Robinson getting shots. They made the wrong choice. The Warriors defense was poor throughout the game on all fronts, but it was especially bad on Hinrich.
"It's amazing, man," Boozer said of Hinrich and Robinson. "A lot of times they're open because there's so much attention to the rest of us. And tonight they were crazy aggressive. The last few games to be honest, though, Kirk's been playing great. Nate's always aggressive offensively. But it makes the game easier for everyone else."
Robinson loves getting shots up no matter who is on the floor, but he really seemed appreciative of being on the court with Hinrich. He enjoyed not always having the pressure of running the offense against a team that historically doesn't put much of a premium on defense.
"It was just fun, man," Robinson said. "(Hinrich's) the captain of the team, he's the leader and he had us going. For us, the ball finds energy. Kirky had great energy today. Each guy did, including myself, but we just feed and play off each other. It just happened and just felt natural. When you're out there playing basketball and you're having fun, the ball -- it doesn't care who gets the credit. The ball hops and we're just having fun and knocking down shots."
That's the key this week for the Bulls. After playing up-and-down basketball all season, they seem to be finally hitting a stride that Thibodeau has been hoping for all year. The “fun” Robinson mentioned is tangible both on the floor and in the locker room. The Bulls know they are getting better and they know that at some point Rose and Deng will be back to help them. In the meantime, they continue to pile up wins most pundits didn't think they could get.
"That's the beauty of this team, man" Noah said. "A lot of guys can step up. Nate Robinson again, huge for us. Kirky Worky, huge for us. Jimmy Boy, huge for us. Carlos, huge for us. It's just that everybody came in with the right mindset, right edge. It's a big win."