With 4:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose drove to the rim and was fouled hard by Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. Rose came up towards Hansbrough, but didn't retaliate. Joakim Noah reacted as well, but also thought better of getting in Hansbrough's face.
Deng had other ideas.
He rushed towards Hansbrough and pushed him. Almost immediately, he was whistled for a technical foul and the sold-out crowd at the United Center went nuts. Deng stomped towards the middle of the floor waving his arms up and down for more noise. It was the type of outburst fans are used to seeing from Noah, but not Deng, the veteran Duke forward.
But the Bulls weren’t surprised by the emotional explosion. They knew Deng had that kind of fire in him.
"Hell yeah," Noah said. "Are you crazy? Lu's been playing with a lot of fire, what… the last forty games? The guy's playing 42 minutes a game. Do you know what your body feels like after 40 minutes of an NBA game? Lu's been huge for us all year. We wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for Lu. He's really become a really good leader on this team."
Rose felt the same way.
"On the one play toward the end, if you feel it's a dirty play you have to say something," Rose said. "If you don't, they're just going to continue it. Luol and my teammates stepped up and did the right thing."
Deng said that in the heat of the moment, he wanted to stand up for Rose.
"I don't think Tyler is a dirty player, but I think it's part of their game plan when Derrick drives to really whack him," Deng said. "That happened a couple times in the first half. I don't think it's a dirty play, but I just reacted."
The Bulls are glad he did. They think that Deng's outburst helped spark their late-game run.
"No question," Noah said. "[Rose] was getting hit pretty hard throughout the game. You don't ever want to see your little brother get hit like that. It's the same thing. Derrick's our leader, but he's also our little brother, and watching him get hit like that, you're going to get frustrated. But at the end of the day, we got to stay composed, especially down the stretch."
The Bulls did, and that's the reason they left the United Center with a 1-0 lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal.