Bulls win as they go through final tuneups
The Bulls' Luol Deng and Joakim Noah play some tight defense on the Pacers' Paul George during the first half Wednesday night.
The Bulls promised to follow coach Tom Thibodeau's game plan and treat Wednesday's trip to Indiana as a playoff preview.
They delivered a 92-87 victory over the Pacers in Indianapolis as Kyle Korver scored 20 points. But their immediate future remains a question mark.
Both Philadelphia and New York won Wednesday, which means the Bulls' first-round playoff opponent won't be decided until Thursday night when the Sixers play at Detroit, while the Knicks visit Charlotte.
If those teams remain tied, New York would be the No. 7 seed and face Miami in the first round, while the Bulls would get No. 8 Philadelphia. Indiana, the No. 3 seed in the East, will play No. 6 Orlando in the first round.
The Bulls (49-16) wrap up the regular season Thursday night at the United Center against Cleveland, and Thibodeau plans to again give the starters meaningful minutes.
"It will be about the same," he told reporters after Wednesday's game. "We'll see where we are. I want our starters to get more time together, so it will be similar to tonight.
"We'll see how the game unfolds. I just want us to continue to take it step by step."
No one went overboard against the Pacers. Joakim Noah (14 points, 14 rebounds) and Luol Deng (9 points, 8 rebounds) played 34 minutes each.
Derrick Rose logged 27 minutes. He didn't shoot well (3-for-11) but finished with 10 points and 7 assists. In the last two games Rose has collected 15 assists compared to 2 turnovers. Before that he sat out 16 of 19 games with groin and ankle injuries.
"Every day is getting better," Rose said. "I'm not trying to do too much out there, just trying to play with the team, trying not to get reinjured. That's the biggest thing, and making sure I'm playing with a lot of confidence.
"I love playing games like this, just getting my rhythm back, just being out there playing defense, trying to rebound, trying to jump off my right ankle.
"I'm coming along. I'm very positive, my spirits are up, and that's the only thing I have to worry about right now."
To get through the playoffs, the Bulls probably will need Rose at his best, especially down the stretch in close games. After playing Indiana, he felt confident he can handle that challenge.
"Certain situations, if it was a crazy type of game and at the end I need to take over, that's what I'm going to try to do," Rose said. "If not, I'm going to still try to play my game, stay aggressive."
"He needs to play in games," Thibodeau said. "He'll get up to speed very quickly."
Carlos Boozer hit 8 of 10 shots from the field and scored 16 points. Korver knocked down 4 of 6 attempts from 3-point range, while Taj Gibson added 10 points off the bench.
The Bulls led wire to wire and never were seriously threatened in the fourth quarter. Indiana finished the game with a 7-0 run in the final minute.
The Pacers played without leading scorer Danny Granger, who has a sore knee, and backup guard Leandro Barbosa because of an ankle injury. Indiana's regulars played slightly less than the Bulls' did, with Paul George leading the way at 29 minutes.
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