- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls have seen the Indiana Pacers so much over the past few seasons, including twice in the preseason, that watching tape of the Pacers didn't really come into their game plan over the last few days.
"I think we know almost everything about this team," Rose said before Wednesday's shootaround. "They're playing with a lot of confidence. You've got Paul George that's playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think they're pushing the ball a little bit more. Lance (Stephenson) and Paul (George) are pushing the ball a lot more and they knock down shots."
Rose took some flak in the preseason when he said the Miami Heat were the Bulls' only true rival, not the Pacers, but he knows that if these games become physical throughout the season the emotion could be different.
"It could definitely change," he said. "But I didn't mean anything by saying it. That's how I felt. They're a great team, they have a great young nucleus just like we do and it should be a good game."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau tried to downplay any talk of a budding rivalry as well. He doesn't want his players to buy into the hype.
"To me, there's only one champion and that's the Heat," Thibodeau said. "Indiana's a great team, we understand how good they are. We know that you have to bring a lot of toughness to this game in order to win. But I think the challenge of this league is ... I guess it makes for good storylines and all that stuff, but everybody in this league is capable of beating you.
"So I think the challenge is to be consistent with your approach in terms of how you prepare to get ready to play and then you have to go out and execute all the things that are necessary to win. So we know how good they are but we also know how good everyone else in the league is. So from that standpoint I think you have to prepare consistently."
Bulls center Joakim Noah knows what to expect when the Bulls play the Pacers -- a very physical battle.
"They're a very good team," Noah said. "They're the only undefeated team in the NBA. And we're trying to get out of a bad loss. And it would be nice to beat them tonight."
As for Noah's strategy against Pacers 7-2 center Roy Hibbert, Noah knows he will have a tough battle against his All-Star counterpart.
"Try to be aggressive," Noah said. "Try to front his big (butt) as much as possible and make him run around."
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