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updated: 10/18/2013 11:52 PM

Bulls' win had playoff feel

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  • Derrick Rose (1) celebrates with teammates after scoring a free-throw shot during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. the Bulls won 103-98.

      Derrick Rose (1) celebrates with teammates after scoring a free-throw shot during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Indiana Pacers in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 18, 2013. the Bulls won 103-98.
    Associated Press

 
 

There's a slight chance fans in attendance at the United Center on Friday will get a letter and invoice in the mail from the Bulls.

"We neglected to mention, this was a premium preseason game," it might read.

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It wasn't a playoff atmosphere, necessarily, but these competitive coaches of two Eastern Conference contenders decided to go all out in the fourth quarter. Indiana's Frank Vogel says he plays to win during the last four preseason games, while Tom Thibodeau's in-game intensity needs no introduction.

With most of the starters on the floor down the stretch, Derrick Rose checked another box on his post-knee surgery to-do list -- deliver late-game heroics.

Rose scored 10 points in the final 5:50, piled up 32 points and 9 assists overall, while the Bulls stayed unbeaten in the preseason with a 103-98 victory over the Pacers.

"Just another preseason game, right?" Vogel joked after the game. "Isn't that what it felt like to you guys?"

Bulls forward Taj Gibson was happy to set the scene for those watching from the sideline.

"It felt like a playoff game. It really did," he said. "They were cheap-shotting. I'm in pain right now. It was crazy the way the guys were flying, bodies were just going left and right. Thibs is yelling, their coach is yelling. The refs probably thought it was a walk in the park, but they were really getting screamed on by Thibs every play down. But it was a great game."

The Bulls trailed by as many as 12 points, but led by 4 when Rose checked in with 5:50 remaining. Luol Deng (22 points), Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy also reported for duty down the stretch. Indiana took a 92-90 lead with 3:54 left when Lance Stephenson drained 2 free throws.

That's when Rose went into late-game mode. He made three aggressive moves down the stretch -- a baseline drive past Stephenson for a foul; a drive, pump fake and another foul on Stephenson; then a driving lefty layup against 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert and a foul.

"It felt natural," Rose said. "That's the way I've been playing in practice -- not holding back. Whatever shot you give me, I'll take it. I'm happy that he threw me back out there."

Deng also had a big basket, a tough runner against Paul George that put the Bulls up 98-95 with 1:33 remaining. The Pacers helped out by going 1-for-7 at the foul line during a two-minute stretch late in the contest.

The Bulls played without two starters. Joakim Noah (groin strain) and Jimmy Butler (left knee bruise) were both sidelined by injuries. Kirk Hinrich left the game midway through the fourth quarter with a possible concussion after falling backward into teammate Erik Murphy's knee.

Rose's jump shot looked better Friday. He knocked down 4 of 7 attempts from 3-point range and 9 of 15 overall.

"I'm getting my feet under me, really lifting the ball and just getting all those jitters out," he said. "I think I'm fine now. But they were giving me the shots, so I was just taking them."

One guy wasn't happy with how things went Friday. The same one who scheduled a Bulls practice for Saturday afternoon.

"I didn't like the way we played at all today," Thibodeau said. "We got lucky in the end. I thought they were beating us to the ball. We were back on our heels. We were lucky to be down 7 at the half."

Now it definitely feels like the regular season.

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