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Bulls beat 76ers as Rip Hamilton shakes off injury, sinks clutch FTs

Richard Hamiltscored 15 points Saturday night against 76ers including three clutch free throws late. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Richard Hamilton scored 15 points Saturday night against the 76ers, including three clutch free throws late. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 2, 2013 7:37PM

When the Bulls reported that Richard Hamilton was ‘‘questionable to return’’ after being carried off the court with a dire-looking sprained foot Saturday night, it seemed like wishful thinking.

Last season, Hamilton’s missed time was measured in games and weeks, not minutes. He went down five times and missed 38 games.

But at least for a night, Hamilton’s luck was better. The veteran guard entered the game against the Philadelphia 76ers twice in the final 20 seconds and hit three free throws to clinch a 93-88 victory at the United Center.

‘‘He [coach Tom Thibodeau] asked me [if I could play] and I told him, ‘Yeah, put me back in the game,’ ’’
Hamilton said. ‘‘He didn’t want to put me back in at first. I’m like, ‘I’m good. As long as my right arm is good, I’m good.’ ’’

Hamilton, who has started all 15 games the Bulls (8-7) have played this season, said the injury was ‘‘a lot scarier than I thought.’’ But he knows he’s not in the clear yet. He’ll have an MRI exam Sunday.

Hamilton suffered the injury when he jumped to make an entry pass to Carlos Boozer with 3:15 left in the third quarter and the Bulls trailing 61-59.

‘‘[It happened] when I jumped,’’ he said. ‘‘As soon as I came off my feet, that’s when I really felt something on the bottom of my foot. I felt something pop.’’

Even though he gutted it out in the end, that doesn’t sound too good. Even Hamilton acknowledged the nature of his latest injury scared him.

‘‘Well, yeah — just from the fact that there was nobody around,’’ Hamilton said. ‘‘They say the worst injuries are when nobody’s around and you didn’t fall down on somebody’s foot or anything like that. When I felt it, I didn’t want to put any pressure on it, but it wasn’t a whole lot of pain. That’s why it was so freaky to me.’’

For now, that Hamilton survived his latest scare was one of several good elements of the Bulls’ victory over a 76ers team that came in 10-6.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting with seven assists and seven rebounds. Joakim Noah had 12 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists — and kept alive a missed Hamilton free throw that led to Hamilton’s clinching free throws with 11 seconds to play

Carlos Boozer added 12 points and 12 rebounds. And Kirk Hinrich made the most of a tough night against Jrue Holliday (23 points, seven assists) with some key plays in the fourth quarter.

After Hamilton left the court, Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler provided a boost off the bench, especially in the fourth quarter. Gibson scored seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. Butler had a big three-point shot, two assists and tough defense on Jason Richardson on a key possession.

‘‘We needed everybody,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Luol made some clutch plays, Jimmy Butler had a timely corner three and some very good defense. Joakim was terrific throughout. Kirk had a tough defensive assignment with Jrue Holiday and battled the whole game.

‘‘Carlos gave us some rebounding. Marco Belinelli gave us some solid minutes. We’re moving in the right direction.’’

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