Croshere, Bender lead second unit


INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana coach Rick Carlisle wanted his team
to go into the playoffs on a roll. Thanks to the Pacers' second
unit, they'll be doing just that.

With the starters watching from the bench, Jonathan Bender and
Austin Croshere fueled an 11-2 fourth-quarter run to propel the
Pacers to a 101-96 win over the Chicago Bulls in the regular-season
finale for both teams.

"The group that finished the game did a great job," Carlisle
said. "They collectively demonstrated a strong will out there."

Chicago opened the fourth quarter with a 9-2 run to take a 90-81
lead with just over nine minutes to play.

With Carlisle resting his starters in preparation for this
weekend's first-round playoff series against Boston, the game
seemed all but over.

But Bender's three-point play with just under two minutes to go
gave Indiana a 97-96 lead and sent the Pacers into the playoffs
with a five-game winning streak.

"It just shows how deep we really are," said Al Harrington,
who led the Pacers with 22 points and seven rebounds. "We're going
to need everybody in the playoffs."

The loss marked a bitter end to another disappointing season for
Chicago, which finished 23-59.

Jamal Crawford scored 31 points, but was held to just eight in
the second half as the Bulls slowly let a comfortable lead slip

"That's been kind of the story of the season," said Kirk
Hinrich, who had 18 points and 11 assists. "We had a lot of them
like that this year, where we had a lead in the fourth quarter and
were not able to finish it out."

Crawford missed a desperation 3-pointer with less than 20
seconds remaining. Croshere corralled the rebound and made two free

Croshere then blocked Linton Johnson's layup at the other end
and added two more free throws to seal the victory. Croshere
finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Marcus Fizer had 21 points and 16 rebounds for Chicago.

With a franchise record 60 wins and homecourt advantage
throughout the NBA playoffs already secured, Carlisle could afford
to sit guard Reggie Miller and forward Ron Artest.

Carlisle also limited the minutes for Jermaine O'Neal and Al
Harrington, making sure everyone is rested and healthy. The Pacers
open the playoffs Saturday afternoon against Boston.

O'Neal had 19 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes.

"We want to win, no matter who's on the court," O'Neal said.
"Those guys played extremely hard. They came out and played with a
lot of pride."

The Bulls were shooting over 70 percent from the field well into
the second quarter.

Crawford led the way, scoring 16 points in the first quarter on
7-for-7 shooting, and 23 in the half. Crawford's offensive outburst
came two games after he scored 50 at Toronto on Sunday.

Chicago shot 56 percent in the first half to take a 59-51 lead.

But Crawford was just 3-for-16 in the second half as the Bulls

"They did a good defensive job," Crawford said of the second
half. "They made things a little more difficult for us."

Chicago was playing without three of their regulars, as well.
Tyson Chandler (back), Antonio Davis (knee) and Jerome Williams
(hamstring) all missed the game.

"We did a lot of good things out there," Bulls coach Scott
Skiles said. "We just didn't have enough for (the Pacers)."

Game notes
Carlisle's decision to rest Miller means the veteran will
finish the season with a 10.0 points-per-game scoring average. He
has never averaged less than 10 points in his 17 years in the
league. ... O'Neal came into the game needing 12 rebounds to
average 20 points and 10 rebounds for the season. ... Skiles got a
technical foul at 9:36 of the first. ... Carlisle got a technical
at 8:11 of the second. ... The Bulls have lost 12 in a row at
Conseco Fieldhouse.