CHICAGO -- The last time the Indiana Pacers were in town, they scored a rare victory at the United Center. And they celebrated it a little too much for some of the Chicago Bulls’ liking.
"Derrick [Rose] gets hype off people celebrating," Joakim Noah said Sunday night in Philadelphia. "When people talk about celebration I just feel like, 'You're not going to out-celebrate me.' Roy Hibbert cannot out-celebrate me. So if they want to see some celebration when we win, I can show them some celebration ... I know how to celebrate."
Now it is the Pacers who are annoyed the Bulls are talking too much about the Pacers’ celebrating too much.
This is becoming quite a rivalry.
“It’s fine,” Hibbert said. “We don’t do a lot of talking or anything like that. We just go out there and play our game and if they want to talk, that’s fine. We’re just focused on winning.”
Can Noah, the fun-loving, finger-gun-shooting bon vivant, out-celebrate the stoic giant Hibbert? Is that even a question?
“That’s fine with me,” said Hibbert, who made his first All-Star team this year. “My thing is to go out there and play hard and help my team win. He could talk whatever he wants to talk. He’s a good player, but we’re focused on one thing, that’s winning.”
Hibbert doesn’t think the Pacers went overboard after the team’s 95-90 win on Jan. 25.
“Did you see that game? Did you see what we did after? Do you think we celebrated?” he said. “I don’t know, man. Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. They thought we overly celebrated.”
It was Rose’s postgame quote after the loss, where he said he won’t forget about watching the Pacers celebrate on his floor, that set off the discussion and stoked the flames of this rivalry.
“I’m not surprised,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Anytime someone like Derrick Rose has some quotes like that, they’re gunning for us, whatever, that’s going to make headlines.”
In truth, the Bulls have been known to emote after big wins. Heck, even Tom Thibodeau will throw an air punch after a good play. Indiana deserved to be happy after coming away with the win.
“It was the first time we won in this building since I was a rookie, in nine games, that we won,” Hibbert said. “If they want to make a big deal out of that, it’s fine. This is basketball, so we’re just going to go out there and play hard.”
Vogel doesn’t change his preparation for a game against the Bulls, but unlike his contemporary Thibodeau, he doesn’t disguise the game’s added meaning. Of course, the Pacers are chasing Chicago, so it’s a little different dynamic.
“I do look at this game differently, and not because of any talk,” Vogel said. “Because they’re the best in the league and we want to be the best. Anytime you’re playing against the best, you’ve got to raise your level and show that you belong.”
The Pacers’ six-game winning streak coming into Monday’s game began after they lost five straight. And their wins didn’t come against a Murderer’s Row of teams. Indiana beat Charlotte and New Orleans twice, along with New Jersey and Golden State.
Now Indiana, possessing the third-best record in the East, starts a nine-game stretch against playoff-caliber opponents: Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Orlando, Portland, Philadelphia, a home-and-away against the Knicks and the Clippers.
“We want to gun for Miami and Chicago,” Hibbert said. “We know they’re talented teams. Everything’s got to be perfect when we go out there and play. We recognize that and we just want to go out there and prove to these teams we can play with them.”