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Bulls’ backcourt duo was great while it lasted

Bulls shooting guard Rip Hamiltlooked like his old self against 76ers. He had 19 points 6-for-7 shooting. | John J.

Bulls shooting guard Rip Hamilton looked like his old self against the 76ers. He had 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 30, 2012 8:33AM

Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton played only 18 games together in the regular season because of assorted injuries, but they looked like they had been running mates for years before Rose injured his left knee late in Game 1 Saturday of the Bulls’ first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Hamilton was acquired before the season for his playoff experience and to alleviate some of the scoring burden from Rose in the playoffs. He delivered big-time after missing most of the regular season with groin, thigh and shoulder injuries. Hamilton made 6 of 7 shots and had 19 points, four assists and three rebounds.

The starting backcourt that vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman thought could help lift the Bulls past the Miami Heat and into the NBA Finals combined for 42 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds.

But it might have been the duo’s last hurrah, at least for this season, as Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee late in the fourth quarter and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

“[Hamilton has] championship experience,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said. “He had 19 points on seven shots. To my thinking, that’s almost three points a shot. Then [Kyle] Korver’s line says 11 points, but his impact out there is much greater than that. That’s 30 points from their two-guard position.”

Whether they were running the floor in transition or setting each other up in the half-court offense, Rose and Hamilton were in near-perfect synchronicity.

Hamilton was getting to all his favorite spots early as he made his first four shots while helping stake the Bulls to a 10-3 lead that set the tone. Four Bulls scored in the first three minutes. Hamilton had 11 points in the first quarter.

“Rip was great,” forward Luol Deng said. “We’re not worried about Rip. He’s played in a lot of playoff games and has seen a lot of coverages. He just knows what they’re going to do. He did a good job of picking his spots.”

Hamilton not only came off screens to get himself makable shots, but he created shots for others, including Rose.

“Anytime you’re playing with a great player, it’s your job to get him easy shots,” Hamilton said. “Derrick missed a few early, so I was trying to get him the ball in spots where he could get easy baskets or layups.”

Hamilton sat out the fourth quarter and played only 261/2 minutes, in part, because Korver was so effective.

Korver scored eight of his 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the fourth quarter.

“[Rose and Hamilton] looked great,” Korver said.

“That was Derrick’s best game since he came back. Rip, too. Rip’s so hard to guard coming off those pin-downs. He made a lot of good decisions.’’

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