Deja Vu: Pacers make it tight, but Bulls win out

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Deja Vu: Pacers make it tight, but Bulls win out

Monday, April 18, 2011Posted: 11:35 p.m. Updated: 2:06 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

An underwhelming performance for three quarters and change. Derrick Rose keeps the Bulls afloat before taking over the game down the stretch late to rescue the Bulls. Throw in a late Kyle Korver three-pointer for good measure. Repeat.

Apparently thats Chicago s strategy in its first-round series against Indiana , as it took another dominant outing from Rose and a bounce-back game from Carlos Boozer to survive the feisty Pacers, 96-90, Monday night at the United Center . The Bulls lead the series 2-0 with Game 3 looming Thursday in Indianapolis .

Im fine with it. As long as were winning, Im not worried about that. My teammates are winners. As long as I keep passing them the ball, telling them to shoot, were good, said Rose, when asked about his ability to shoulder the load. The only thing we can do is get better. We played, I think, our worst and were blessed to get these two wins.

WATCH: Thibodeau on taking care of the ball

Echoed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Hes a leader, I think hes earned everything that hes gotten, he runs our team great and I think he wants the challenge.

A genuine energy filled the United Center from the outset and even though it wasnt initially an aesthetically-pleasing outing, the renewed hustle of Joakim Noah and improved effort of Boozer (17 points, 16 rebounds) were on full display. Noah played with his former level of intensity, something he struggled to regain through his various rehabilitation processes, while the much-maligned Boozer looked to be more assertive offensively.

Boozer was more aggressive because of not being in foul trouble. His rebounding was great, said Thibodeau. I thought he got off to a good start offensively. We probably should have searched him out more in the post in the second half.

Explained Boozer himself: I just tried to play off my teammates. I thought in the second half, they paid a lot more attention to me, rotating.

The tandem together was a force on the boards, dominating the visitors, although that was mitigated by the Bulls unforced errors on offense, resulting in a low-scoring contest and made more difficult for the hosts when Rose (36 points, six assists, eight rebounds) accrued two early fouls.

WATCH: Rose says Bulls will walk through the fire together

While Boozer scored effectivelydespite uncharacteristic 3-for-7 foul shooting Chicago trailed after the opening period, 18-17.

Behind reserves like Mike Dunleavy and A.J. Price (13 points), Indiana gradually opened up a gap between the two squads, as the Bulls were absolutely frigid from the field and unable to prevent the sweet-shooting Pacers from knocking down deep jumpers. But upon the return of Rose, the Bulls played at a faster paceand with more passion in generalmaking it a close-knit affair.

Once again, however, the visitors withstood Chicago s push and opened up another comfortable margin, but suffered a major loss when point guard Darren Collison injured himself by crashing into baseline photographers after completing a fast-break layup, resulting in a sprained left ankle.

I just remember going up for a layup and I think I rolled on it wrong, Collison recalled. Ninety percent of the time, if I have an injury like that, Id go right back out there and play on it, but its just frustrating because I cant even jog on it.

Right now, I think its day-to-day. Most likely, Im going to try to be back for Game 3.

It an X-ray was negative. Right now, its just real sore and swelled up pretty bad, but well see.

Said Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel of his floor general: Hes a big part of what we do.

You always miss your leader, just from a cohesiveness standpoint and everything.

The Bulls turned up the defensive pressure late and by virtue of forcing turnovers, the home team climbed back to cut the deficit to 47-44 at halftime.

As the Bulls are prone to do, they stormed back after the break, going on an 11-3 run to open the third quarter.

WATCH: Deng says playoffs are never pretty

Luol Deng (14 points, six rebounds) came alive to complement Roses effortsnot only as a scorer, but as a distributorand Boozer continued his ownership of the glass, as well as his low-post scoring. Suddenly, Indiana was on its heels and Chicago again resembled the unselfish, defensive-minded, 62-win team it was during the regular season.

Everybody contributed to the Bulls third-quarter chargefrom veteran role players Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas to primary scorers Boozer and Rosebut it was the improved team defense that truly led the way. Thibodeaus bunch got back to its active, help-side ways, enabling them to create easy opportunities via the transition game.

Still, behind go-to scorer Danny Granger (19 points), the Pacers didnt fade away quietly and aided by some careless Chicago miscues, tied it 67 apiece following a successful T.J. Ford half-court prayer at the third-period buzzer.

The final stanza started inauspiciously enough for the Bulls, as it became clear that Indiana was more than eager to engage in the grind-it-out style of play that worked so often for the hosts in the regular season.

With the Pacers also getting timely outside shooting, strong play off the bench and a physical, active defense, the guests had all the momentum.

Every fan, member of the media, team employee and player in the arena knew where the Bulls would turn to bail them out: Rose, who delivered in his typically cold-blooded fashion, knocking down jumpers and careening past Indiana defenders like a pinball for a remarkable finish, a trip to the charity stripe or both.

The game dictates that. Hes a primary scorer, the balls in his hands a lot and we need him to score, so hes done it, said Thibodeau. But Im comfortable with his decision-making, too. Hes going to make the right play. I dont think you see the impact he really has by his assist number.

Added Boozer: We got the ball in the MVPs hands and he took over, which is normal for us. I know we keep talking about it every day like were surprised, but we shouldnt be surprised anymore, right?

Rose provided Chicago with a slight cushion and when the young Pacers couldnt respond, he once again found Korver, the teams designated sharpshooter for a clutch three-pointer, making it a 90-85 game in the Bulls favor with 1:04 to play.

WATCH: Noah says Rose is "big time"

We did a great job on him all night. Hes a great player, said Vogel. He made key plays down the stretch to win the game for them

Were just trying to give him some different looks. Give him a steady diet, he picks you apart, he continued. We tried to trap Rose out at halfcourt, as opposed to him drawing our whole team and then finding him.

Our guys played their hearts out. Cant ask for anything more than that.

The game seemed in the bag for Chicago, but despite Indiana not being able to capitalize on some fortuitous opportunities in the waning moments, Rose proved he was both a giver and taker after fouling Price on a three-pointer with 23.4 seconds left, a call that earned the scorn of the home fans.

Price drained the trio of free-throw attempts to make it a two-point game, but Bulls sealed the deal by navigating the inevitable end-game foul scenario and subsequent foul-line parade with success.

These games are definitely tough. It takes a punishment to keep going in there and keep getting beat up. Tonight, I just tried to mix up my game, shoot jump shots a little bit. But Im going to still attack, play the way that I playaggressiveand that opens up my teammates, said Rose. The only thing Im worried about is my turnovers. Of course, I had six of them. That definitely changed the game. If anything, I can learn from it and do better next time. With the team, weve got to come out with an edge, got to take their confidence and we didnt do that tonight. it was still a pretty close game, all the way until the end.

WATCH: Korver on cleaning up some things

Were very happy to be here, of course. We wouldnt take anything back, but our play has to get better. Weve got to be more smooth, more efficient, especially on the defensive end, where weve got to try a lot harder. But I feel like were going to get things together pretty quickly.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

In first game of post-deadline era, Bulls come up with comeback overtime win over Suns

The post-deadline era has begun for the Bulls, with the directives clear on developing their young players and seeing what can be done in the last third of the season.

And while their youth sparked them early, it was the headliners who stepped up late in their 128-121 overtime win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night at the United Center, as the team was clearly adjusting to life without Taj Gibson, who was traded Thursday.

Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade each had sluggish starts, to say the least. Each looked like he was going through an island-like malaise through the better part of three quarters before waking up.

Butler finally ignored the snooze button at the most opportune time, nearly winning the game in regulation with a tying triple, then a fadeaway 15-footer over Eric Bledsoe to cap off a late comeback that saw the Bulls rebound from an eight-point deficit with a few minutes left in the fourth.

"That's what great players do," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They step up when you need them the most. Jimmy obviously had a tough night shooting the ball (early). ... What he's been doing all year, taking over the game in the fourth, and tonight was no different."

Then Wade, in one of his few post-halftime mistakes, controversially fouled Suns sharpshooter Devin Booker on a triple with 1.5 seconds left, but Booker missed the last of the three free throws to send the game into overtime.

"I think it was good defense," said Butler before giving a nod to his controversial whistle that went his way a week ago. "We don't wanna go back too far, but a foul's a foul."

Wade and Butler continued the assault into the extra session, with Wade rising for a late flush over Suns center Alex Len and raising his arms in celebration — having put together a 23-point performance after a scoreless first half.

"That dunk he had was unbelievable," Hoiberg said. "I should give him another week off."

In the early stages, Butler wasn't as futile as Wade, but he wasn't much better, scoring just eight before the fourth but being more aggressive and assertive with his moments and jump shots, finishing with 22 to go along with nine assists and four steals.

"Just keep shooting the ball and eventually it'll go in," Butler said. "And they did. Coaches put the ball in my hands, I kept taking the same shots, making the same plays. Then they went in."

The Suns led most of the way, mostly due to their team-wide speed and athleticism, getting out on the break the way they did in the first meeting two weeks ago. Booker scored 27, while Bledsoe, TJ Warren and Marquese Chriss each scored 17. Bledsoe added 10 assists and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.

They dominated the fast-break department at a 27-16 clip, and the Bulls actually countered with 3-point shooting, hitting 12 triples and shooting 46 percent from 3.

Nikola Mirotic was 4-for-7 from deep on the way to a 20-point night, while Denzel Valentine put together his best showing as a pro with 15 points, all coming on five made 3s.

Three straight triples from Valentine pulled the Bulls to within one late in the third quarter. The shots were decisive and confident — perhaps as he knew he wouldn't be removed for anyone at the first mistake.

"I like it, take the shots when you're open. Sometimes when you're not open, still shoot it and we know to get back," Butler said.

There were plenty of mishaps and things to complain about as the Bulls hit a new wave, but at least it started with some positive vibes after a day of uncertainty and confusion.

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Chance the Rapper poses with Benny the Bull at United Center

Two Chicago legends were spotted courtside before the Bulls tipped off against the Phoenix Suns on Friday. 

Chance the Rapper, recent winner of three Grammy Awards, snapped a photo with Benny the Bull at the United Center.

The south sider is spending a few months back in his hometown before starting a nationwide tour in April. His stop at the Bulls game should come as no surprise, as the "Coloring Book" rapper has become big friends with Jimmy Butler. Tough to name a more talented duo than that. 

Chance was also seen in New Orleans last weekend for the NBA All-Star festivities.

We know he's already a White Sox team ambassador, but are the Bulls next up?