Why was this night different from all other nights?
Well, instead of failing to play defense and falling behind early and then waiting for Derrick Rose to take over and … umm, OK, it wasn't much different at all.
The Bulls spotted Indiana a nice cushion early, played some lousy defense in the first half, and then stood around and watched as Rose passed over the outstretched arms of assorted Indiana Pacers on his way to the rim, scoring 23 second-half points and leading the Bulls to a hard-fought victory at the UC on Monday night.
"It's always good to win, and we never lose sight of that," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "But we have to make corrections. Good teams make corrections.
"Hopefully we do that because we have to be better in Indiana. That's a good team and they're not going away."
When Bulls players started ordering championship rings they failed to consult the Pacers, who don't seem to care a lick about what anyone thinks of their chances against the No. 1 seed in the East.
The shocking truth is Indiana could have traveled home with 2 victories in Chicago, and instead they have nothing to show for it but the Bulls' respect.
"They're a good team and they've pushed us to the limit twice here," said Rose, who had a game-high 36 points, 6 assists and 6 turnovers. "I think it's a wake-up call.
"We're just happy to win this one. We almost lost it because of turnovers. They have our attention."
Getting the Bulls' attention has been a problem all year for Thibodeau, who probably wouldn't know what to do if his team showed up for a first half.
It happened again Monday as the Bulls used their tried-and-true recipe of the sluggish start combined with thoughtless defense, followed by the great finish from Rose, who had 14 points in the fourth.
The formula is hardly new, though it seems to cause a stink every time it happens and now brings elevated concern because it's the postseason.
But if you've been watching the Bulls all season then you know they're likely to come out slow and still beat teams in the second half.
"I don't think anyone wants it to be that way," said Luol Deng. "But it's happened a lot. We need to change it."
The temptation is to believe that the Bulls can't continue to get away with it as the playoff rounds become more difficult, but it's quite possible the Pacers offer more matchup difficulties than the Bulls will see in the next two rounds.
Nevertheless, the Bulls are up 2-0 in the series after Indiana outplayed them for 45 minutes in Game 1 and played them tight for another 47 minutes in Game 2.
"It's playoff basketball. It's different basketball," said Pacers coach Frank Vogel. "We believe we belong here, despite what a lot of people think."
The Pacers stuck with the Bulls in the second half even after losing point guard Darren Collison near the end of the first, in large part because of the Bulls' 21 turnovers and some foolish fouls, especially Rose's 3-point infraction in the last minute that gave the Pacers life and cut the Bulls' lead to 2 points.
Of course, it would help if the Bulls didn't wait until the last minute to take control of a game.
"I don't know what it is. (Lack of) urgency, I guess," Rose said. "We played our worst and we're blessed to get 2 wins.
"When we get rolling, we're going to be tough."
Any time now would be fine.
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