Pacers return home down 2-0 vs. Bulls

Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel is walking a fine line as he

tries to keep his team competitive in its first-round playoff

series with the Chicago Bulls.

He wants his young players to remain confident after pushing

Chicago to the limit in the first two games, yet he doesn’t want

them to be satisfied while fans pat them on the back for testing

the top-seeded Bulls in a pair of losses at the United Center.

Chicago has a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Conseco Fieldhouse

for Game 3 on Thursday.

”We’ve just got to guard against everyone in the world telling

us how happy they are that we’re hanging in with them,” Vogel

said. ”We’re 0-2 against them.”

Vogel, still displaying the supreme confidence that has been his

trademark since taking over for Jim O’Brien at midseason, said he

expects the Pacers to bounce back.

”We’ve stood toe to toe with this team,” he said. ”We know we

can play with this team, we know we can beat this team. We expect

to beat this team in Game 3.”

Vogel figures the Bulls, who had the best record in the league

in the regular season, aren’t happy with being in a dogfight

against the only team that entered the playoffs with a losing

record.

”All they’re hearing is how they’re not getting it done,” he

said. ”They’re going to come hungrier. We’ve got to come hungrier

than we’ve come.”

The Pacers lost double-digit leads in both of the first two

games before Chicago rallied. The Bulls know the games have been

closer than expected, but the most important thing is that they can

go up 3-0 with a win.

”We just don’t want to relax,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said.

”Whether we go out and win by 20 or win by one or whatever, I

think there’s always going to be something that we’re going to talk

about that we want to get better at. That’s just been us all year,

where we’re never too high and never too low. We just know what we

want to get to.”

To have a chance, Indiana will need to do a better job against

Derrick Rose. The MVP candidate averaged 37.5 points, seven

rebounds and six assists in the first two games.

The Pacers have primarily used Paul George to defend Rose,

looking to bother him with the rookie’s length and athletic ability

while using other players to help. Though Rose has put up numbers,

Vogel said the 6-foot-8 George has done a good job of making the

6-3 Rose work. George shrugs off the point totals, instead focusing

on the big picture.

”I don’t really look at it as, I’m going to come out here and

stop Derrick Rose,” George said. ”It’s really, I’m coming out

here to contain him. That’s really the best you can do. If he goes

for 30 shooting 25 shots, I would say I win.”

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose will be ready for whatever

the Pacers bring.

”We’ve seen everything that we’re seeing,” he said. ”We’ve

seen traps. We’ve seen size on him. He just has to keep doing what

he’s doing. He’s doing fine.”

Indiana’s focus on Rose has had a ripple effect. Chicago had a

49-34 advantage on the boards in Game 1 and a 57-33 edge in Game

2.

”They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA,” Vogel

said. ”Derrick Rose puts pressure on your team to help, for your

bigs to constantly be helping, and if your bigs are constantly

helping, challenging his shots, then it leaves you vulnerable on

the glass.”

Pacers center Jeff Foster said the effort is there, but the

execution has to improve.

”We’ve just got to do a better job of putting bodies on guys

and coming up with the ball,” he said. ”Their penetration puts us

in difficult positions, but we have to overcome that and have a

total team effort on the glass.”

Collison’s availability is a major question for the Pacers. He

went down in the second quarter of Game 2 on Monday night after

stumbling into a cameraman on the baseline.

”Hoping for the best, but we’re listing him as doubtful,”

Vogel said. ”He’s very sore still. He’s going to try to give it a

go. I’m preparing to not have him.”

If Collison can’t go, A.J. Price would start and T.J. Ford would

back him up. Price had 13 points in 24 minutes in Game 2. Ford has

played sparingly this season, but he scored five points, including

a 3-pointer from beyond halfcourt, to tie the game at the end of

the third quarter of Game 2.

”Same focus, same mentality,” Ford said. ”I’m a veteran, I’ve

been in the playoffs before. I’ve been in this league a long time.

You always stay ready and stay prepared. My mentality is to come

out and perform.”

Thibodeau said the Pacers will be good either way.

”They have quality depth, not just up front, in their backcourt

too,” he said. ”They’re a deep team. At the beginning of the

year, they had injuries. Now they’re healthy. They’re good. They’re

a good team.”

Though Indiana is heading home, it might not seem that way if

Pacers fans don’t embrace the team. Indiana was last in the league

in attendance during the regular season while the Bulls were first,

and with Chicago being just three hours away, the threat of a

red-and-black takeover of Conseco Fieldhouse was a concern.

”We need to fill the building with blue and gold,” Vogel said.

”I’m asking all our fans, come out and support us. When we played

them here in the regular season, there were an awful lot of red

shirts.”

Vogel then joked that the Pacers have a plan to keep Bulls fans

away.

”We’re going to have metal detectors out there to scan the

metal people are bringing in the building, but people who are

wearing red … they’re not going to get through the metal

detectors either.”