INDIANAPOLIS -- Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer combined to go 6-for-28 from the field on Thursday night, yet the Bulls still managed to pull out an 88-84 win and now have a 3-0 series lead over the Pacers.
How did this happen?
"We're a team," Boozer said after the game. "We're not a one guy team, we're not a two guy team, we need everybody in this locker room to win. I thought we had guys, Ronnie Brewer came in, had been sitting the whole quarter almost, come in and hit two big free throws for us. Kyle hit big shots all night. We got guys that come in and step up every night for us. We're a team."
In this case, the Bulls got contributions from several different plays, in several different ways. Luol Deng scored 21 points and played a gutty 45 minutes, some of which came with a major headache after getting clunked in the head by Pacers forward Jeff Foster. Joakim Noah looked like his old self again scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while Taj Gibson came in and played 20 solid minutes off the bench. It was the type of game that gives the Bulls even more confidence going forward, given that they know their big guns really didn't play that well ... and they still won.
"It shows you that it's not all about just stats," Noah said. "I know that a lot of people are always looking at the stat sheet. If you look at, to me, what really affects winning, Taj Gibson's blitz on [Danny] Granger at the end of the game. Nobody's going to ever talk about that. But those are the things that win the game. A lot of guys stepped up. Booz didn't score the ball very well tonight, but his rebounding was very big for us. Overall, it's a team effort we stuck together, played hard as hell."
That was a sentiment echoed throughout the locker room.
"I think the depth of our team has been one of our strengths all year," Korver said. "It's talked about a lot, I think. We have a lot of guys that can come through, but also when our defense is really on, we don't need to score 120 points to win. We scored in the 80's tonight and we won. We've done that a lot this year. Shooting comes and goes. Defense is what keeps you consistent throughout the year. And obviously, Thibs preaches that all the time. And I think because of that, we're able to be in a game like tonight. We don't play the defense tonight and we probably lose."
Even with the result, Boozer’s off night -- he was 2-for-10 from the field and scored just four points on the night -- has to be a concern for the Bulls.
"We'll just call it, it's how the game went," Boozer said of his struggles. "Didn't get any free throws. I guess I didn't get fouled out there. But we'll call it like it is. We'll keep playing. And I don't care about that stuff, man. All I care about is winning. I don't care about my numbers. I don't care about if I shot great without getting no foul calls. All I care about is winning. This whole team is like that. All we want to do is win. And that's why we're in the position we're in. We don't care about stats."
Rose isn’t concerned with Boozer’s somewhat slow start to the postseason.
"He's going to find his way," Rose said. "You gotta understand, they're putting size on him and they're doubling him. So if anything, it's going to be tough. The shots he normally hits, he didn't hit tonight. But rebounding he was there; and he just kept fighting."
For the most part, the Bulls’ locker room mood was jovial after the game. Despite how they've played at times, they have a commanding lead and they know it.
"Bottom line is: We're up 3-0," Boozer said. "We know we're getting better as the series [goes on]. Our defense was much better tonight than it was the first two games which is great for us. We'll get in the lab [Friday] work on what we need to work on, and be ready for Game 4."
The last word: "I would just like to be athletic for a day, let alone be Derrick Rose for a day. I mean this dude, you watch some of these guys and you're just like, 'If I could move like that, this would be a totally different game.' Could you imagine? If I could run and jump like that, you'd shoot whenever you want. That would be incredible. Obviously, it's not going to happen. I got past that a while ago," - Kyle Korver, while discussing Rose's athleticism.