A dynamite third quarter by Derrick Rose and the Bulls denied Indiana any chance of a second straight win in Chicago.
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Luol Deng scored 20 points, teaming with Rose in a decisive rally that sent Chicago to its seventh straight victory, 92-72 over the Pacers on Monday night.
”We had a lot more energy in the second half than we did in the first half,” Deng said.
Rose added 13 points and nine assists, hitting three 3-pointers while Deng had two in the third as the Bulls blew open a close game.
”We fought our way back into the game,” Rose said. ”Our energy was kind of low and shots weren’t falling. But we rebounded the ball and finished the game pretty good.”
Joakim Noah had 17 rebounds to lead the Bulls to a dominating 60-32 edge on the boards. Chicago outscored the Pacers 20-4 on second-chance points. John Lucas III scored 13 points, one of three Chicago reserves in double figures.
”We struggled offensively in the first half,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”In the third quarter, we had great energy and imposed our will. The rebounding is what got us over the hump.”
Paul George scored 21 points for Indiana, which had a six-game winning streak snapped. George Hill scored 17 points off the bench.
”Give credit to the Bulls,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ”They had all the hustle stats. Won all the loose balls and obviously kicked our butts on the glass. ”
The Bulls improved their league-best record to 32-8. Chicago stretched its lead to 2 1/2 games over Miami atop the Eastern Conference and to seven games over Indiana in the Central Division.
The Pacers were trying to win a seventh straight game for the first time in eight years.
”They really picked it up defensively,” George said. ”We deferred to them. Everybody on their side stepped up when we somewhat had Derrick Rose contained. Everybody else stepped up.”
Chicago avenged a 95-90 loss to the Pacers on Jan. 25, one of just two home losses this season. Rose was irked after that game because of what he perceived to be Indiana’s excessive celebration on the court after the game ended, saying ”I can’t wait till we play them again.”
”You don’t want to lose to a team twice in a row,” Deng said. ”Especially a team that we might face in the playoffs.”
After the game, Rose sounded was more conciliatory.
”They’re a good team,” Rose said. ”The last time we played them, they beat us here. Now we just have to deal with them. They put up a fight every time we play them. We’re used to. I think it makes us better as a team.”
Bulls guard Richard Hamilton left the game after just 1:23 had elapsed with a right shoulder injury. He did not return.
Ronnie Brewer came on for Hamilton and had 12 points and seven rebounds in 39 minutes. Fellow reserve Taj Gibson added 10 points and nine boards.
”Thibs always tells us to be ready because you never know when you’re time is going to come,” Brewer said. ”Whenever we come in, we have to try to bring energy and change the game one way or another.”
Indiana led by three two minutes into the second half when the Bulls went on a 20-4 spree that featured a pair of nine-point runs. After starting the game by missing nine of his first 10 shots, Rose capped the first run with a 3-pointer to put Chicago up 53-47.
”We definitely got stagnant,” said Pacers forward Danny Granger, who was held to 11 points. ”We didn’t get a lot of movement. They picked up their intensity and we had some bad turnovers that led to layups on the other end.”
Indiana closed within four before Chicago hit three consecutive 3-pointers, one by Rose and the last two by Deng. His long one from straight on as the shot clock expired put Chicago up by 13.
The Bulls extended the lead to 19 by the time their third-quarter burst ended. Chicago outscored the Pacers 33-13 in the period, held Indiana to 6-of-22 shooting and outrebounded the Pacers 18-7. Rose had 11 points and five assists to lead the charge.
Rose rested for the entire fourth quarter as Indiana could get no closer than 13 points. When the Pacers looked like they might make one last run, Rose began to stretch but ultimately settled back onto his seat and watched from the sideline.
”I’m not worried about the shots that I miss,” Rose said. ”Amnesia. I know that when I get things going, it’s pretty hard to stop.”
The Pacers are looking forward to their next test against their division foe.
”We still have games to play (against the Bulls) in Indiana and it will be a different story,” Granger said.
NOTES: Bulls backup point guard C.J. Watson did not play because of a sprained left ankle. Watson was injured during Chicago’s win over Philadelphia on Sunday, but was able to finish the game. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Watson had experienced swelling around the injury on Monday and did not know a timetable for his return. . The Bulls, who improved to 15-2 at home this season, play 16 of their last 26 regular-season games at the United Center. . Thibodeau said Hamilton will be examined on Tuesday, but wasn’t sure of the exact nature of his injury.