Before the playoffs began, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau warned that the starters' minutes would increase, simply because there is more time to rest between games. It's standard postseason procedure.
In the process, though, the vaunted "Bench Mob" seems to have lost its mojo against the Pacers.
Indiana's reserves have outscored the Bulls' bench by 44 points in the series. Kyle Korver, 8-for-10 from 3-point range, is playing and producing more than he did in the regular season, but everyone else has seen their scoring drop.
Taj Gibson is averaging 2.5 points against the Pacers, compared to 7.1 in the regular season. Ronnie Brewer has dropped from 6.2 to 2.5 points and C.J. Watson from 4.9 to 2.8.
"Yeah, it's disappointing and frustrating at the same time," said Watson, who is averaging just 7.3 minutes in the series. "But we knew once the playoffs came, coach would cut the minutes down. We try to go out there and do whatever we can in the little minutes we get."
Watson could get more of an opportunity in Tuesday's Game 5 if Derrick Rose is slowed or forced to sit out because of a sprained left ankle. The Bulls expect Rose to play, but it's tough to predict how he will feel by game time.
Indiana got a lift from its bench during Saturday's 89-84 victory in Game 4. Guard A.J. Price scored 10 points, including a couple of timely 3-pointers. Mike Dunleavy added 7 points, Josh McRoberts 6 and Dahntay Jones 5.
Sometimes, bench strength can be as simple as 6 points from three or four different players, but the Bulls didn't get that during the two games in Indianapolis.
"In the playoffs, you have to adjust," Gibson said. "Nothing's going to go as planned. We've been staying ready. Hopefully if we get this win Tuesday, we'll be able to get back to our normal rotation. But as long as we're getting wins, it doesn't matter."
In some ways, the bench points have been a byproduct of the Bulls' struggles in general. As Indiana makes adjustments and keeps turning the games into foul-filled slugfests, the scoring has dropped.
The Bulls' point total has fallen in every contest, from 104 in Game 1 to 84 in Game 4. Likewise, the bench scoring has dropped in every game.
Brewer suffered a sprained left thumb late in the regular season and is not at full strength. Thibodeau has chosen to use veteran Kurt Thomas' playoff experience and give rookie Omer Asik very limited playing time.
Rose missed one game during the regular season at Denver on Nov. 26 and Watson delivered an amazing performance. He piled up 33 points, hit 11 of 22 shots and the Bulls came within a Carmelo Anthony buzzer-beater of beating the Nuggets.
Watson's best performance in the Indiana series was 7 points in Game 2.
"It's hard to come off the bench in such limited time," he said. "But I've just got to go out there and get ready faster, try to pick the tempo up and just come into the game ready, offensively and defensively."