They bumped him, smacked him and -- when necessary -- knocked him down.
Rose, who had averaged 37.5 points over the first two games of Chicago's playoff series with the Pacers, managed just 23 on 4-of-18 shooting in its 88-84 win at Conseco Fieldhouse. Yet he still scored the game's most critical basket, beating three defenders for a high-arching left-handed layup that gave the Bulls a two-point lead with 17.8 seconds left.
"It was tough the whole night the way they were playing me," Rose said after the Bulls took a 3-0 lead in the series, which continues -- and could conclude -- on Saturday. "I missed shots I usually hit. But at that time I saw a space and opportunity and I just went."
Rose has attempted 49 free throws in the series, 13 fewer than the entire Pacers roster. That trend is likely to continue as the Pacers plan to continue playing physically. That point was made clear with 5:59 left in the third quarter when backup center Jeff Foster filled the lane to defend Rose's drive to the basket and knocked him down. No flagrant foul was called on the play, but Rose confronted Foster and players from both teams huddled to exchange menacing glares while Foster stood with his arms upraised to avoid fueling emotions.
"He's so fast, I just went in there and ended up hitting him," said Foster, a 12-year veteran. "He reacted. It's the playoffs. I'm sure he's going to get hit plenty of times."
Rose called the foul "a little irritating" but took the play in stride.
"That's his job," Rose said. "But you have to stand up to it. I was just trying to go to the basket and create contact."
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau respects the way Foster plays.
"This is the playoffs. There are going to be hard fouls," Thibodeau said. "In my eyes, that's what they've been doing the whole series. They're fouling hard. That's part of the game. When it crosses over the line, I think the officials will make the call.
"I have a lot of respect for Foster. He's a hard playing guy, a tough guy. He's been a good player in this league for a long time."
Kyle Korver said he admires Rose's ability to absorb a physical pounding as much as any other quality the guard possesses.
"It's unbelievable," Korver said. "He plays so strong in attacking the basket. He does it every night. He did for 90-some games now.
"A lot of things about him are really amazing, but his ability to take that pounding and keep going ... that last drive with the left hand, that was incredible. I don't know how he even got the shot off. He's doing it every night."