CHARLOTTE – It had all the makings of a painfully lethargic hang-over.
Back-to-back after a horrible home loss to the Mavericks in double-overtime Tuesday night. Bumps and bruises scattered throughout the roster equally. A 3 a.m. arrival into the Charlotte area. And of course, all of it fresh off a 15-day Circus Trip.
That’s why Pau Gasol made sure to get a message out, before the Bulls even stepped foot on the Time Warner Cable Arena floor Wednesday night.
“Just try to, by my experience, every game matters, and certain games are easier to relax and not bring the energy,’’ Gasol said, after the 102-95 win over the Hornets. “So you have to keep – especially like physically [Wednesday] was a difficult day because we had to fight through the fatigue and emotion a little bit from [Tuesday night], taking that hit. But once you push that aside and just go out there and give everything you have, get the job done, compete, find a way to win. That’s what you need to do in order to be at the top in this league.
“There’s no way around it. You’re going to have tough losses. You’re going to be tired. The schedule is not going to be easy at all. But you still have to bring your mental effort, your physical effort, and get it done.’’
Gasol did his part, after playing 50 minutes in the loss to the Mavs, putting in 36 minutes of work and scoring 19 points to go along with 15 rebounds less than 24 hours later.
And Kirk Hinrich did his part, overcoming a horrific three-shot foul late in the Dallas game that allowed the Mavericks to come back and win it in the extra stanzas.
Hinrich not only showed amnesia from his gaffe, but scored 12 points, including back-to-back three-pointers with 3:16 left in the game that helped the Bulls (12-7) keep the slumping Hornets (4-15) on the ropes.
“You just realize after time in this league you have to move on,’’ Hinrich said. “Things are going to happen. You’re going to make mistakes. Everybody has been trying to pick me up.’’
That charge was led by Tom Thibodeau.
“Kirk is a pro,’’ Thibodeau said. “His toughness is what’s helped us prevail over the last two years. Whatever you need he does.’’
Hinrich wasn’t alone in that mentality against Charlotte, either.
Joakim Noah twisted his ankle in the first half, but came back to finish with 14 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, while rookie Nikola Mirotic continued to play key minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Even Derrick Rose had a first this season, starting and finishing a back-to-back, while scoring 15 points along the way.
Thankfully for the Bulls, they now have two days off in order to heal up and rest up, before playing at the United Center Saturday against Golden State.
They do so feeling pretty good about themselves on top of it.
“When we hit adversity and when things are tough, I feel like we bring it,’’ Noah said of the win, and specifically of Hinrich’s bounce back. “It makes us close-knit as a group.
“It was for Sioux City tonight. We all knew that coming in, that it was for The Sioux.’’
Sioux City was where Hinrich was born and raised.