Playing through pain is expected, and shaking off bad performances is routine in the world of NBA basketball.
The great ones never let on that something might be bothering them.
Chicago guard Derrick Rose endured a couple of rough games against Indiana when Pacers coach Frank Vogel chose to throw every defensive wrinkle possible at the MVP favorite. Rose shot 25 percent from the field in Games 3 and 4, was routinely roughed up on drives to the basket and even suffered a sprained left ankle that kept him off his feet for two days.
When Rose took the court for Game 5 at the United Center, he erased it all from his mind and led the Bulls to a dominant 116-89 victory. The top-seeded Bulls eliminated the Pacers 4-1 and will await the winner of the Orlando-Atlanta series.
On Monday, Rose vowed to take a painkilling shot for his ankle, then suggested at shootaround he wouldn’t need it.
"There wasn’t really any pain," Rose said after the game. "I was just scared that if I twisted it again, it’s going to hurt really bad. When the crowd got into it and we started running, I forgot about it."
Rose scored 11 of his 25 points in the first quarter but separated himself from the crowd of ordinary players in the third quarter.
Shortly after Rose left the game because he had four fouls, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau sent him back onto the floor when Tyler Hansbrough’s three-point play brought the Pacers within four points. In the next three minutes, Rose knocked down three shots from 3-point range and found enough liftoff to block a dunk attempt by 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert.
The Bulls finished the third quarter on a 23-8 run, opened a 19-point lead and Rose relaxed on the bench for most of the fourth quarter.
Vogel talked about how much he enjoyed the chess match of defending Rose. The Pacers tried trapping early, trapping late, changing defenders. In the end, whatever worked didn’t work for long.
"He’s spectacular," Vogel said of Rose. "I wish him all the best. He’s a great kid. He’s a great player. I don’t know if anybody has an answer to try to stop him. We did our best. We fought hard. He was too much for us."
When this closely contested, physical series ended, most of the Pacers walked over to the Bulls bench area to offer hugs and congratulations. But Indiana forward Danny Granger couldn’t get past a couple of Game 5 confrontations.
Pacers forward Josh McRoberts was ejected late in the third quarter for twice shoving Bulls center Joakim Noah like a blocking sled. In the fourth quarter, Noah and Tyler Hansbrough got tangled up while fighting for a rebound.
It was nothing new for this series, which featured plenty of rough play, including a couple of upgraded flagrant fouls by Pacers center Jeff Foster in Game 3.
"Joakim Noah, he’s a dirty player," Granger said after Tuesday’s game. "He elbowed two of my power forwards. One got kicked out. The other got a tech, and nothing’s called on him (Noah).
"I don’t think there’s a place in the game for it. You can make hard fouls and everything, but when you start elbowing people in the face, that’s when fights start breaking out."
Whether Granger’s claim was valid is largely irrelevant because the series is over. Rose gave an answer more befitting a superstar when asked about the physical play by the Pacers.
"As a basketball player, you get used to it," Rose said. "That happened my whole life where you get hit hard. What makes them mad is when you continue to go in there. That’s what I’m going to continue to do."
Mike McGraw is in his 12th season covering the Bulls for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago.