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Article updated: 4/23/2011 12:11 AM

Bulls turning deaf ear to critics

Carlos Boozer, center, looks up as he battles for a rebound against the Indiana Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough, left, and Danny Granger during Game 2 in Chicago. The Bulls won 96-90.

Carlos Boozer, center, looks up as he battles for a rebound against the Indiana Pacers' Tyler Hansbrough, left, and Danny Granger during Game 2 in Chicago. The Bulls won 96-90.

 

Associated Press

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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Bulls faced plenty of second-guessing Friday afternoon, even though they own a 3-0 lead in the first-round playoff series against the scrappy and foul-prone Indiana Pacers.

Shouldn't the Bulls be winning more easily against the No. 8 seed?

Shouldn't they be getting more than 4 points from Carlos Boozer in a playoff game?

Shouldn't they start delivering some hard fouls of their own to counter the Pacers' nastiness?

The Bulls strolled into IUPUI's gym concerned with getting down to business. They can sweep the series with another victory on Saturday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse.

"I don't care about any of that stuff," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I just want us to keep improving each and every day. I know in the playoffs, wins are hard to come by. So you do what you have to do to win, then you just go from there."

Two common fouls by Pacers center Jeff Foster in Thursday's Game 3 were upgraded by the league to flagrant fouls, but Foster will not be suspended.

No less an authority than Bulls legend Scottie Pippen advocated payback on the other side of the court. The Pacers have delivered a number of hard fouls in the series, including one by Tyler Hansbrough in Game 1 that deserved consideration for a flagrant upgrade.

"At some point, you need to take a stand," Pippen said in a postgame video on bulls.com. "I believe in an eye for an eye. If they're going to drive the lane, we're going to give hard fouls, too."

Pippen joined the Bulls' television announcing team for playoff broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet and accompanied the team to practice Friday. He was on the court playing defense against Rasual Butler and Omer Asik as the players warmed up, but it's not clear if he's advising anyone to retaliate.

Payback is difficult for a couple reasons: Derrick Rose drives to the basket more than any player on the Pacers, and the Bulls have more to lose if someone was suspended for the first game of the following series.

"As long as we win the game, I'm happy," Rose said Friday. "I didn't have to get any stitches or anything. As long as I'm OK, I could care less about it."

Rose did get angry after the first Foster foul that was later changed to flagrant. After a few choice words, he moved on to the free-throw line.

"He is human. He's going to say what he has to say, but I love his poise and his demeanor," Thibodeau said. "He's always under control. They're taking shots at him. It says a lot about his toughness. He's as tough as they come, both mentally and physically."

Statistically, Boozer had his worst offensive game as a Bull in Game 3. He hit just 2 of 10 shots for 4 points but did grab a team-high 11 rebounds. Thibodeau had no complaints.

"I thought Carlos played very well," the coach said. "He rebounded the ball well. ... He had a big score late. He had 3 assists, kicked out to Kyle (Korver), who had a wide-open 3. He's got to try to avoid foul trouble. I think that's the thing that's taken him out of rhythm a little bit."

One odd stat from Game 3 was the Bulls getting credit for just 16 points in the paint. Their regular-season low for points in the paint was 26.

"We did get to the free-throw line a lot, so it doesn't really mean anything," Joakim Noah said. "I think sometimes stats aren't as black and white as you guys want them to be."

"We were 9-for-20 from 3 and most of the 3s came from the penetration into the paint and then the kick-out," Thibodeau added. "That's where that can be deceiving."

The Bulls' largest lead in this series has been 7 points, surprising for a 62-win, top-seeded team. It's tough to argue with a 3-0 lead, though, and the Pacers deserve credit for playing very well.

Three years ago, Thibodeau was an assistant with Boston, which posted the league's best record and needed seven games to dispose of No. 8 Atlanta in the first round.

"Whether you're winning by 1 or winning by 20, you've got to win," Thibodeau said. "You win different ways in the playoffs. Every series will be different."

Said Rose: "Get the wins and move on. As long as we're winning, we shouldn't have anything to worry about. We know we're not playing our best basketball, but we're still winning playoff games."

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