The Indiana Pacers were pests in the playoffs last season, even though their first-round series against the Bulls ended in five games.
They're planning to keep the pressure on. Until losing to Orlando on Tuesday, the Pacers had the second-best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Bulls.
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"There's still a lot of season to be played," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said before Wednesday's game. "But we made some strong additions to an already strong young core. It's still to be determined how well we come together, but we definitely have the pieces in place to be one of the best in the East."
Vogel, 38, might have been the Pacers' brightest star during that playoff series against the Bulls. The Rick Pitino protégé replaced Jim O'Brien as head coach last year on Jan. 30.
The Bulls needed a miraculous comeback to survive Game 1 at the United Center. That series was also remembered for plenty of rough play by the Pacers. Indiana center Jeff Foster, who was out Wednesday with a sore back, was charged with a couple of flagrant fouls.
"We want to have a physical approach every game we play," Vogel said. "Certainly we will talk about how the physicality helped us compete with these guys last year, the best team in the league. We want to bring that tonight.
"We know we can play with these guys. They got us in Game 5. We're off to a strong start. We feel like we're one of the best teams in the East. We're excited to compete against these guys."
Bottom line favors Bulls:
Forbes Magazine came out with its annual estimate of NBA team finances. Once again, the Bulls are rated as the third most valuable franchise at $600 million. The Lakers ($900 million) are first and New York ($780 million) second.
The article estimates the Bulls' operating income at $59.4 million in the past year, second only to the Knicks. Over a five-year span, the Bulls were listed as the league's most profitable team.
The Milwaukee Bucks were rated the least valuable franchise at $268 million, while Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats were the least profitable with estimated losses of $25.5 million.
Pacers try to copy success:
Heading into Wednesday's action, the Pacers ranked second in the league in defensive field-goal percentage behind Oklahoma City. Coach Frank Vogel credited the Bulls for inspiration.
"Defense wins and Chicago does it at the highest level," Vogel said. "Coach (Tom) Thibodeau is probably the best in the business on the defensive end. They have a great formula: Share the ball offensively and defend at a very high level. That's what we're trying to achieve."