- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- When Tom Thibodeau goes back to review tapes of these first few playoff games, he must think he is watching a mirror of his own team. The Indiana Pacers play the type of physical brand of basketball that Thibodeau loves. They play the type of basketball that the Bulls have been playing all year. From the outset of this series, the Pacers have been the ones setting the tone of the game with their physical play, as was the case during their 89-84 victory over the Bulls on Saturday afternoon.
"I think it's taking us out of what we want to do, for sure," Bulls guard Kyle Korver said of the Pacers' physicality. "We're not getting good looks. We have to do a better job of giving Derrick [Rose] an outlet; him making the pass, and then making the read from there. When they got two guys on the ball, it should be easy offense. We should have guys wide open. And when we're in those situations, we got to make the right play. And we're just not doing it right now."
They're not doing it because the Pacers have locked up Rose for the past two games. Whether it's been the solid defense of Paul George, or the aggressive style of Dahntay Jones, Rose has not been able to perform the way he wants. Because of that, the Bulls have not been able to do what they want as a team.
"They're playing good defense," Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You have to give them credit. We have to read. You have to hit the first open man. When you do that, the ball moves. We're trying to thread the needle and you can't thread the needle. You have to hit the first open man."
As the series has worn along though, it seems as if the Bulls can't find the open man because they've already been jolted by a Pacers' defender who has knocked them off course. The Bulls have said they will correct their mistakes and get back to playing the way they have all season, but that hasn't been the case. Indiana has dictated the pace most of the way, as evidenced once again, by the fact that the Bulls did not have a single fastbreak point Saturday
"It's a lot of things we're disappointed in," Bulls forward Luol Deng said. "I'm sure [Sunday], it's going to be a lot of [people saying] "You don't really want to watch that video" ... but the video never lies. I think we made a lot of mistakes out there that we got to correct [them]."
Deng appreciates the fact that the Pacers have set the tone, he just can't believe his team is still struggling to do so after having so much success playing with an edge all year.
"They're playing hard," Deng said of the Pacers. "They're playing with a lot of intensity. I thought today they played like a team that didn't want to get swept in the first half. They played hard. They played way harder than us in the first half and a lot of things went their way. We made a comeback, played harder, and that's what we got to do."
The consistent "48-minute" energy level that Thibodeau has preached about all year hasn't been there for the Bulls and they know it.
"You see what these games come down to," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "It's nothing. It's on us to ... if we play the way we played in that fourth quarter, for 48 minutes, we'd win that ballgame. We're excited. We're excited about the opportunity to go back home."
That's the attitude Deng wants his team to have as well.
"They've bit us in the butt every game," he said, when asked if the Bulls' mistakes throughout the series finally caught up to them on Saturday. "We're very disappointed. Indiana played great [for] four games. They got one out of four. And it's another game to play. We're still up 3-1. We can't drop our head and we can't be negative. Just be positive and we're going to come out [and win] next game."
In order to do that, Thibodeau and his players have to find a way to get Rose back into the rhythm of the offense. He is just 10-for-40 over his last two games.
"We got to make corrections," Deng said. "Derrick is a great player and we all feed off Derrick. And we're going to get him going. We're going to work on it, but it's really, it's not the end of the world. Derrick is going to play great next game. We're all going to do great next game. We're going to come out and we're going to win."