MILWAUKEE (AP)—With the NBA trade deadline less than 24 hours away, there’s a chance Wednesday night’s game was Kirk Hinrich’s last in a Chicago uniform.
But if so, what a way to go out.
Hinrich scored a season-high 31 points—including three straight baskets during a critical stretch in the fourth quarter—and the suddenly short-handed Bulls shook off the upheaval of a trade earlier in the day to beat the Bucks 113-104.
Chicago might not be done dealing before Thursday afternoon’s deadline, but Hinrich was trying to ignore the possibility of being dealt.
“Tomorrow’s the last day,” Hinrich said. “I’m just trying not to think about it, trying to focus on being here and trying to do whatever I can to help this team to play better and get in the playoff picture.”
Luol Deng added 21 for the Bulls, who were playing with a short bench after trading four players to Sacramento earlier in the day. Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro praised the remaining players for maintaining their focus.
“Kirk got hot, and he was really the difference,” Del Negro said. “Just a good, gutsy win for us.”
Richard Jefferson tied a season high with 32 points for the Bucks, who brought a three-game winning streak into the game despite playing without injured starters Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and Luke Ridnour. Charlie Villanueva had 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“Kirk had a great game, obviously shooting the ball and scoring,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “He just took our guards and made us look pretty silly on several occasions because he was playing so hard.”
Chicago acquired center Brad Miller and forward John Salmons from the Kings in exchange for four players, including key backups Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden. The Bulls also gave up Michael Ruffin and Cedric Simmons in the deal, and Sacramento traded Ruffin to Portland for forward Ike Diogu.
“It’s tough, because you become friends with those guys,” Deng said. “You become real close with them, but it’s business. It’s sad that we’re not working together anymore, but you know, at the same time you’ve got to get the job done.”
And they did, thanks in large part to Hinrich.
Milwaukee cut Chicago’s lead to three after a technical foul was called on Del Negro, who apparently was irate that a foul wasn’t called under the basket after Hinrich missed a layup.
Villanueva hit the free throw after the technical—but Hinrich immediately stole the ball from Ramon Sessions on the ensuing possession and cruised to a layup on the other end, putting Chicago up 91-86.
“Sometimes you play best when you’re a little upset, when you’re angry,” Hinrich said.
After a Milwaukee miss, Hinrich hit a 3-pointer to give the Bulls a 94-86 lead with 6:15 left in the game. Hinrich then hit a midrange jumper to extend the lead to 10.
Jefferson answered with a 3-pointer and was fouled clumsily by Joakim Noah. Jefferson hit the free throw to complete the four-point play and cut the Bulls’ lead to six, but Tyrus Thomas forcefully dunked a rebound home on the other end to put Chicago back up by eight.
Jefferson hit another three, but Thomas sprang free for another dunk and Chicago led 102-92 with 3:29 left. Deng later added some insurance with a midrange jumper as the shot clock expired, putting Chicago up 104-94 with 2:10 remaining.
Trade talk dominated the Bulls’ locker room before the game, as players expressed surprise over the earlier trade; most of them found out when their former teammates weren’t on the bus.
And Hinrich tried to shrug off additional trade rumors that had the Bulls potentially dealing him to Minnesota before the deadline.
“I can’t really sit here and be worked up and worried about something I really can’t control,” Hinrich said.
Bucks players were downplaying trade talk, too.
“This is a very funny business,” Villanueva said. “Anything can happen. I just want this trade deadline to be over so guys can just concentrate on the teams they are going to be on.”
Jefferson has scored 25 points or more in five of the Bucks’ past six games. … Thomas, Deng and Noah played the fourth quarter with four fouls each, and Noah finally fouled out with 2:38 left in the game. … Skiles also was called for a technical in the fourth quarter.