Richard Hamilton returned from a third-quarter injury to hit three free throws in the final 14 seconds to clinch the Bulls' 93-88 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at the United Center. But the Bulls still will have to sweat out an MRI on Hamilton's sprained left foot to know whether they survived the latest injury to their veteran shooting guard.
Hamilton suffered the injury when he jumped to throw a pass to Carlos Boozer with 3:15 left in the third quarter. ''[It happened] when I jumped up,'' Hamilton 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.''
Hamilton was carried off by teammates and went directly to the trainer's room. The Bulls announced Hamilton had a sprained foot and his return was questionable.
''It was a lot scarier than I thought,'' said Hamilton, who scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting. ''But we'll see. [Sunday] I'm supposed to get an MRI on it. But the good thing about it I was able to put a little bit of weight on it and was able to go back into the game.''
Hamilton said he did not have X-rays taken on his injured foot. He returned to the court after the Sixers' Thaddeus Young (22 points, 10-of-16 shooting, seven rebounds, four steals) scored to get the Sixers to 90-88 with 16 seconds left in regulation.
Hamilton was fouled and hit the first of two free throws with 14.4 seconds left. He missed the second free throw. But Joakim Noah kept the ball alive and it bounded to Hamilton, who was fouled again and hit both free throws with 11 seconds left to clinch the game.
''He came back. Fred [Tedeschi, the team's trainer] told me that we can use him if we needed him,'' Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ''I felt we needed him.''
''It was sore, when it was a lot of adrenalin in the game,'' Hamilton said. ''I felt I could still move. I know I wasn't 100 percent. But I felt I could still get out there and help the team win.''
Hamilton has started all 15 of the Bulls' games this season, playing 27 minutes a game. But he played in only 28 of their 66 regular-season games last season because of various injuries. He left the lineup five times, missing a total of 38 games.