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Kirk Hinrich playing great defense on Deron Williams

Bulls forward Taj Gibsdunks over Nets forward Kris Humphries second quarter game three between Chicago Bulls Brooklyn Nets first round

Bulls forward Taj Gibson dunks over Nets forward Kris Humphries in the second quarter of game three between the Chicago Bulls and the Brooklyn Nets first round playoff April 25, 2013 at the United Center. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 29, 2013 8:03AM

Three-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams is averaging 16 points through three postseason games, 2.9 fewer than his regular-season average.

But he is shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from three-point range.

Much of the credit for Williams’ shooting struggles goes to Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich.

“He’s stepping up big, and he’s one of the reasons we’re successful this year,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said.

Added guard Marco Belinelli, “Kirk and [Joakim Noah] are like our best [defenders on] the team, so I try to look at Kirk, especially because he’s a guard.”

Hinrich is smart, fearless and persistent, not to mention humble.

“Just try to execute what we’re doing defensively and play him as tough as I can,” Hinrich said when asked to explain his mentality in defending Williams. “He’s a great player, very versatile, and a tough cover. Our team defense has been good on him.”

Added Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “This guy has been a great player in this league a long time, so you can’t guard him individually. You try to guard him with the team and make him work for everything.”

Finish strong

With just under five minutes remaining in Game 3, the Bulls held a seven-point lead. But the Nets went on a run before the Bulls escaped with a 79-76 win.

The Bulls deserve some blame, Hinrich said.

“Too much walking around, not being sharp and slow to get into our stuff,” he said. “Usually when it starts bad, it ends bad. So we got to tighten that up.”

Added Thibodeau: “I think we were trying to preserve the lead, and you can’t do that.”

Around the rim

Thibodeau said Noah was “encouraged by how he feels.’’

“He’s not having that soreness, like he did previously,” the coach added.

◆ The Bulls had a light and brief session Friday, shooting free throws and watching film. Derrick Rose shot outside jumpers for about 20 minutes after his teammates left the court.

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