After spending a day making those playoff adjustments, this probably was not what coach Tom Thibodeau had in mind for Game 2 against Indiana: Fast-paced, low-scoring and extremely sloppy.
The Bulls opened the game with 5 turnovers in less than three minutes and continued along those lines for most of the late night at the United Center. They finished with 22 turnovers, while shooting just 38.6 percent from the field.
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Bulls fans should recognize this storyline from the 90s, though. Physical defense can always be countered by a player head and shoulders above anyone else on the court.
Indiana general manager Larry Bird knows the feeling, but he could only watch helplessly as Derrick Rose once again put the Bulls on his back and took over a tight game in the fourth quarter.
Rose piled up 36 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists to lead the Bulls to a 96-90 victory and a 2-0 series lead against the pesky Pacers. Game 3 is Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
"The only thing we can do is get better," Rose said. "We played, I think, our worst and we were blessed to get these 2 wins. When we get things rolling, we're going to be tough."
Heck, Rose was pretty tough when the Bulls were at their so-called worst. In the fourth quarter, he scored 14 points, hitting 4 of 5 shots from the field and all 5 free throws. "It's the playoffs. Wins are hard to come by," Thibodeau said. "They're a good team. I want us to play better. I want us to improve. But you have to give them credit, also."
The Pacers tried using taller defenders against Rose, starting off with 6-foot-8 rookie Paul George. They sent some surprise traps at Rose in the fourth quarter and fouled him a lot less.
The soon-to-be-named MVP finished with 6 turnovers, all in the second half. Ultimately, though, none of the tactics worked.
In his last three games against Indiana, Rose has averaged 39 points overall and 14 points in the fourth quarter. Some players just don't offer a defensive answer.
"As long as we're winning, I'm not worried about that (workload)," Rose said. "My teammates are winners. As long as I keep passing them the ball, telling them to shoot, we're good."
This victory did not contain a miracle comeback. Indiana led by as many as 9 in the first half and clung to a 78-76 advantage with less than six minutes remaining.
The Bulls took the lead for good when Rose drove right and tossed in a baseline one-hander, then completed a 3-point play with 5:16 remaining.
Carlos Boozer (17 points, 16 rebounds) scored on a soft hook before Rose hit a jumper over Danny Granger, added a pair of free throws and finished a driving lay-in against tight defense by center Jeff Foster. That flurry sent the Bulls ahead 87-83 with 2:11 remaining.
A couple of free throws by Granger brought Indiana back within 2 points before the Bulls went to another reliable fourth-quarter option. Joakim Noah tossed a pass out to Kyle Korver, whose open 3-pointer gave the Bulls a 90-85 advantage with 1:04 remaining.
There was one more speed bump when Rose fouled Pacers guard A.J. Price on a 3-point attempt and the ensuing 3 free throws made it 90-88 with 23.7 seconds on the clock. Luol Deng, Ronnie Brewer and Rose went 6-for-6 at the foul line in the final seconds to seal the win.
"It is always good to win. You can never lose sight of that," Thibodeau said. "We have to make corrections. The good teams make those corrections after they win and hopefully we can be one of those teams."
Hustle wasn't an issue for either side. The Bulls built an impressive 57-23 rebounding edge. The Bulls appeared to get a break when Pacers point guard Darren Collison scored on a fastbreak late in the first half, then twisted his left ankle when he landed among a pair of sideline photographers.
Collison limped back onto the court after halftime, tried to run, but hobbled back to the locker room and slammed his palm against a door in disgust on his way back through the tunnel.
The injury brought seldom-used veteran T.J. Ford off the bench, and he banked in a shot from beyond half court to end the third quarter in a 67-67 tie.