Late chances off the mark for Hinrich


CHICAGO – With the season hanging in the balance Tuesday at United Center, Chicago Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich first couldn’t muster any heroics, and then he couldn’t handle the basics.

Late in regulation, Hinrich had two looks at long-range jumpers that wouldn’t fall for a Bulls team struggling to score in the final quarter. A 10-point lead with seven minutes remaining melted away, sending the game into overtime.

In the extra period, Hinrich found himself in the spotlight again. With the Bulls trailing by two, Hinrich missed a layup in traffic, but a foul sent him to the free throw line with a chance to extend the game into a second overtime.

But Hinrich missed the first free throw, intentionally missed the second, and the Washington Wizards grabbed the rebound along with the commanding 2-0 series lead after a 101-99 victory.

“Yeah, I mean I was upset. I felt I should have made the layup to be honest,” Hinrich said. “But I just wasn’t able to do it. I thought maybe I shot it a little quick, thinking about it now in my mind. But you have to move on and just stay confident.”

Hinrich isn’t the Bulls' No. 1 offensive option by any means, but without a primary scorer, his selections are limited while running the offense. D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 25 points, but he had his own issues down the stretch in regulation, missing three shots in the final 3 minutes, 16 seconds.

Asked if he was satisfied with the long-range jumpers late in regulation, Hinrich shrugged.

“Well, I mean I got a good look, but I wasn’t satisfied,” he said. “I need to knock them down. Late in games, you have to be able to knock shots down. I missed a couple of good looks late.”

It’s the missed free throw that will be remembered most. The Bulls appeared destined to head into a second overtime but had the rug pulled out from underneath them.

And just as suddenly, they find themselves looking at the prospect of a quick elimination, instead of establishing themselves in the series.

A late jump shot or a pair of clutch free throws could have helped to get the Bulls into the thick of things, but Hinrich’s teammates weren’t about to turn on their veteran leader.

“I think it's all part of the process,” Bulls center Joakim Noah said. “I love Kirk to death. He's one of the best teammates I ever had, college, pros, whatever. That's our captain, I love him to death. Things like that happen in this game. We just got to move on from it and I got his back 150 percent.”

Taj Gibson, who supplied energy during his 36 minutes off the bench, not to mention 22 points and 10 rebounds, echoed Noah’s sentiment.

“Yeah, I was surprised. Things like that are going to happen,” Gibson said of Hinrich’s missed first free throw. “He’s a tremendous player. He’s been great for us all year long, been in that situation many times. If that happened in that time again, I would still go with Kirk. He’s one of the captains on this team, one of the veterans on this team. I was just a little shocked when he missed, but it happens like that, he’s human.”

Now it will take something close to superhuman for the Bulls to get back in the series that shifts to Washington for Games 3 and 4.

“Both games we’ve given up [with] fourth-quarter leads, so we have to do a better job,” Hinrich said. “Give them credit, though. They’re playing well, and they’ve been resilient these two games. We have to bounce back strong.”