Bulls: Indiana Pacers
"I really don't even want to talk about it," Robinson said after Sunday night's win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. "It happened. It wasn't like I was trying to go out there and hurt him. So if Lance is listening, it wasn't no foul where I was trying to hurt him. But I was just trying to [have the attitude of allowing] no layups. That's the rule that we go by, so it's not like if somebody else gets a fast break I'm going to let them go. No, I'm going to [foul hard] if I have to. I'm going to take the foul like I think I need to."
The Pacers and Bulls do not meet again in the regular season but would face each other in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs if the season ended Sunday.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Let's take a quick look at how the Indiana Pacers earned a hard-fought 97-92 win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
How it happened: David West had another big game against the Bulls, scoring 31 points and pulling down seven rebounds. Pacers center Roy Hibbert added 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Pacers made just enough plays at the end to pick up the win. Marco Belinelli led the Bulls with 20 points in 45 minutes. Luol Deng added 15 points and five rebounds of his own.
What it means: With Derrick Rose looking on from the bench for the first time this season, the Bulls gave one of their most spirited efforts of the season. Playing without Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson and Rip Hamilton, the Bulls grinded this game out all the way until the end. Aside from Belinelli's solid play, Joakim Noah had another big night for the Bulls in racking up 14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. What will make Tom Thibodeau most proud about this game is the way his reserves played in large minutes. Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic and Marquis Teague got extended minutes in the first half -- the first time that's happened all season. They responded by keeping the game close and giving the starters a needed break. Their performance not only will give them more confidence down the line, it may inspire the rest of their teammates, including Rose. The former MVP spent most of game jumping up and down in support of his teammates and screamed out words of encouragement; his competitive juices were definitely flowing.
Hits: Jimmy Butler had his best game in several weeks by posting 20 points and four rebounds. He played with the type of spark that Thibodeau loves to see.
Misses: Carlos Boozer did not have a good night. He had just six points and was 3-for-9 from the field in 17 minutes.
Stat of the night: This was the first game Rose watched from the bench since tearing his ACL in April.
What's next: The Bulls have a couple days off before heading to San Antonio to face the Spurs on Wednesday night.
"We're not interested in the streak really," Vogel said after Monday morning's shootaround. "We're just interested in winning the next game. This is a Central Division championship game right here. Who wins this division is going to be determined on the court, not by miscellaneous matchups around the league. I think the head-to-head matchups is going to decide this Central Division."
Pacers forward David West knows the importance of their game against the Bulls, who lead the Pacers by a game in the Central standings.
"We've got to do what we've got to do to beat them," West said. "They're the division leader, and they won it last year. We're fighting with them for playoff positioning, so we've just got to continue to fight. This is another game in front of us. We're going to do what what we have to do to try to get this win."
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The Bulls entered Saturday’s game against the Bucks with a 5-6 record and had lost their last three games. The Bucks currently lead the Eastern Conference Central Division with a 6-4 record and are followed by the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers, who are 6-8. The Bulls and Pacers were thought to be the preseason division favorites.
“Obviously (Danny) Granger being out in Indiana, that’s had an effect on them,” said Skiles, who coached the Bulls from 2003-08. “I believe they’re better even without Granger than their record indicates, and I think the Bulls are, too.
“I’ve been around some of those (Bulls) guys. I just think they’re good players. Kirk (Hinrich) is a good player. Lu (Luol Deng) is a good player. Jo (Joakim Noah) is a good player. (Carlos) Boozer is a good player. I don’t mean to be leaving anybody out. Their bench is different. I think at some point they’ll get that worked out, get it ironed out and just kind of hit a stride at some point.”
The Bulls have owned the Central the past two seasons. The Bulls took the division by eight games over the Pacers and 19 games over the Bucks last season. Two seasons ago, the Bulls won the division by 25 games over the Pacers and 27 games over the Bucks.
Although this season appears to be headed in a different direction, Skiles wasn’t willing to declare that just yet.
“We’ll see,” Skiles said. “It’s still early.”
Skiles did admit he did like his team’s start.
“You’d rather be 6-4 than 4-6, but also know we’ve had a couple games in there we should have won, as well,” Skiles said.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t buy into divisions ever being the same as the previous season.
“Each year it’s different, and that’s what you’re faced with,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not the only team with change. Every team changes and it’s how you adapt to those changes, and how quickly you can adapt. There’s been a lot of teams in the East that have gotten significantly stronger, so the challenge is greater.”
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert said Friday he and his teammates respect the Chicago Bulls with or without Derrick Rose on the court.
“I think their other veteran players like (Carlos) Boozer, (Joakim) Noah, they’re going to try to take over, you know, and lead the team, pick up the slack a lot more,” Hibbert said before Friday’s game against the Bulls at the University of Notre Dame. “We just have to make sure we do a good job of containing those guys.”
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireWith or without Derrick Rose, Roy Hibbert says the Bulls are a dangerous team.
The Bulls and Pacers are considered the Central favorites again this season. The Bulls are expected to be without Rose for much of the season as he recovers from tearing his ACL in the playoffs last season.
Even with Friday’s game being a preseason affair, Hibbert said the Pacers wanted to have a good showing against the Bulls.
“Obviously, we want to do well, extremely well,” said Hibbert, who averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last season. “It’s preseason, so we’ll figure things out. You want to play to win, but you have to look at the fact these games don’t count. But at the same time, we want to work on stuff and want to win. Ultimately, we know next week is when everything starts.”
Hibbert did dance around the question of whether the Pacers or the Bulls were the team to beat in the Central this season.
“We just want to go out there and play our best and whatever happens, happens,” Hibbert said.
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireTom Thibodeau expects his Bulls to focus on what's in front of them rather than embrace the underdog tag, but he admits the Pacers will be tough.
"We love it," Bulls guard Richard Hamilton said of the lowered expectations. "Because you love to be the underdog. You love to do stuff when people don't expect you to do anything. It makes you strive and makes you go out and want it even more."
While the players might appreciate the value of flying under the radar, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau isn't buying into the fact that expectations around his team will change, with or without Rose.
"It really doesn't mean anything," Thibodeau said after Thursday's practice. "To me, it doesn't matter what other people think. The only thing that matters is what we think. So whether you're being praised, criticized, that doesn't mean anything. It's what we think. And all I want them to concentrate on is exactly what's in front of them, improve every day, do the right things, concentrate, know your job, do your job, know when to shoot, know when to pass, stay disciplined. We do those things, we'll have a chance."
Thibodeau doesn't believe he should have to feed into his players' egos and motivate them by talking about critics. The veteran coach simply believes in hard work, and that's the motto he wants his players to hold onto.
"If you have the right type of guys, they're going to be doing the right things every day," Thibodeau said. "If you're relying on that type of stuff, I don't know how far that gets you. I'd rather have a team that's committed to doing the work, preparing the right way, doing the right things and just concentrate on that. That's how you have success."
Hinrich, who strained his groin in the first half against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday, did some light shooting and rode a stationary bike during Thursday afternoon's practice.
"(Hinrich's) a little better, but didn't do much today," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Just spot shooting for him. Game-time (decision). We'll see."
Hinrich, who was signed as a free agent this summer, has missed 28 games the past two seasons because of various injuries. He already missed one preseason game because of a thumb injury.
If he doesn't play Friday against the Pacers, Nate Robinson will likely get the bulk of his minutes.
"My message to our guys when we started today was, yes, we want to win our division, we understand Milwaukee's going to be tough, and Kyrie Irving and the Cavs are going to be tough, Detroit's always going to be tough, but we are not sleeping on the Chicago Bulls," Vogel said. "They went 18-6 without Derrick Rose in the lineup, so to think all of a sudden they're this team that's a non-factor is crazy.
"They've got one of the best coaches in the league and one of the best systems. We're not sleeping on them in any way, shape or form."
Bulls GM Gar Forman refused on Thursday to set a goal for a Rose-less Bulls team. Rose isn't expected to be back until the second half of the season.
"From our standpoint in the front office, I never like to put a ceiling on what any team can become," Forman said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "Every year is a new year. Whatever our potential is, I'd like to see us reach that potential.
"The core of this team returns that had a lot of success, and so I do think that's a real plus for us, but we have some new guys on the bench and it's going to take time for those guys to build chemistry and to gel. Overall we like our team and I think we have a chance to be a good basketball team."
The Chicago Bulls have racked up the most wins in the NBA the past two seasons. They've been the No. 1 seed two years in a row in the Eastern Conference. Now, given the uncertain status of Derrick Rose and the ongoing injury concerns of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who believes the Bulls can achieve the same kind of success this season.
I picked them to win 50 games and former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy wondered if I had fallen on my head. The point is that without a healthy Rose in play, and with so much uncertainty surrounding the rest of the roster, the Bulls have gone from being one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference to being one of its biggest question marks.
While the rest of the teams near the top of the conference have improved, the Bulls have seemingly stood in place, angering fans in the process by not wanting to go deep into the luxury tax. While nobody knows exactly where the Bulls will fall, it's clear that the gulf between the Miami Heat and everybody else in the Eastern Conference is bigger, at least on paper, than it's been in two years.
To that point, let's take a look some of the teams the Bulls will be contending with and what they have done to improve themselves in the past few months, especially now that the Dwight Howard deal has finally gone down:
Miami: The clear cut favorite in the East. Veteran sharpshooter Ray Allen took a pay cut to play with LeBron James. They added another shooter in Rashard Lewis for the veteran's minimum to go along with a core of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Yeah, they're pretty good.
Boston Celtics: Allen left, but they still have Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. They also added Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and rookie Jared Sullinger. With Doc Rivers running the show, they'll always have a chance to contend.
Indiana Pacers: They still have Danny Granger, locked Roy Hibbert up to a max deal, and have George Hill and Paul George which helps form a solid young core. They added D.J. Augustin and will get better from their playoff experience last season.
Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Bynum, acquired in the Howard trade, gives them one of the best young centers in the league. They lost Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, though. Aside from Bynum and Jrue Holiday, where is the offense going to come from? Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner are nice pieces, but I believe they need to do more work before they elevate to the step below Miami.
Brooklyn Nets: The Nets had a solid summer adding Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace while locking up Deron Williams and Brook Lopez to max deals. The Nets have a solid team moving into Brooklyn, but they were banking on getting Howard. Now that he won't be there, they look like they have flipped roles with Atlanta as the team that will be knocked out of the second round for years to come.
New York Knicks: Yes, they added Jason Kidd to a roster which already included Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire, but the Knicks looked lost for most of the season and just don't seem to fit together. They lost Jeremy Lin and Mike Woodson is now charged with meshing everything together with a 39-year-old point guard leading the way. Good luck.
Atlanta Hawks: The fact that the Hawks got rid of Johnson's contract is a victory all by itself. New GM Danny Ferry still has Josh Smith, Al Horford, and Jeff Teague -- plus a lot of potential cap space in the future -- but they aren't going to be all that great this season.
The Bulls are in a precarious position heading into next season, but they aren't unlike the rest of the teams in the Eastern Conference assuming, of course, that LeBron and the rest of his teammates stay healthy. They're all playing for second place. Only time will tell just who that second team will be.
How it happened: Kyle Korver had a big night off the bench, scoring 20 points and hitting several big shots down the stretch as the Bulls bested their divisional rival. Joakim Noah had another solid performance, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Carlos Boozer added 16 points and seven rebounds.
What it means: The Bulls played like a team that is ready for the postseason to begin. They could have rolled over and decided to coast into the playoffs, but Tom Thibodeau played Noah and Luol Deng 34 minutes apiece. Unlike a lot of teams in the same situation, the Bulls didn't approach this game lightly. They played with an edge all night. That's just the way Thibodeau wanted it. The only bad sign for the Bulls on this night was that Derrick Rose still looked pretty rusty. In 25 minutes of action, Rose was just 3-for-11 from the field and seemed hesitant at times on the floor. His ankle looks a little better and he drove to the rim more, but he still didn't look like the Rose of old. There is still time for him to turn things around, but he only has one more regular game to work with. Rose didn't struggle as much as Rip Hamilton did on Wednesday. He was just 2-for-10 in 27 minutes and looked out of rhythm with Rose on the floor.
Stat of the night: The Bulls outrebounded the Pacers 44-37.
Bold play of the game: With 4:04 left in the fourth quarter and his team leading 82-73, Korver knocked down a triple and gave the Bulls the padding they needed to close the game out.
What's next: The Bulls close out the regular season on Thursday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls' 92-72 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night was personal for Derrick Rose, who had difficulty shaking the mental image he of the Pacers celebrating on the United Center floor the last time the teams met.
AP Photo/Charles CherneyBulls point guard Derrick Rose had the drive to beat the Pacers on Monday.
Rose dismissed the explanation by some Pacers players that they were celebrating the same way any team would after a big win.
"Yes, they did," Rose said. "Yes, they did. I saw it."
Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer said that the Jan. 25 loss and extra celebration by the Pacers was something that he and his teammates discussed before the game.
"We don't take it lightly when a team beats and celebrates on our court," Boozer said. "We don't forget too easily either. We talked about all those things before the game ... I just remember them jumping around and celebrating and we don't like that. We don't like anybody celebrating at our expense."
"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."
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Pacers' Roy Hibbert (55) and Danny Granger (33), celebrate their win over the Bulls on Jan. 25.
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.”