Plenty of animosity on tap as Bulls face Pacers twice
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter March 20, 2014 7:51PM
Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler (21) vies for the ball with Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)
BULLS AT PACERS
The facts: 6 p.m., Ch. 9, 1000-AM.
Updated: April 22, 2014 6:35AM
Hate is such a strong word, but it seems applicable here.
If the Heat is No. 1 on the list of teams loathed by the Bulls, the Pacers are easily 1A.
“The Pacers are getting there, if they’re not already,’’ guard Jimmy Butler said of the mutual enmity. “They think they’re a better team, we think we’re the better team, so we’re about to find out Friday.’’
And again Monday, as the teams will face each other twice in the next four nights.
That means glares, smack talk and, of course, no handshaking.
“Two really competitive teams who just want to show who is better than who,’’ Butler said. “I feel like both teams have a lot of good players that do a lot of things well, so it’s going to be a dogfight until the very end.’’
Friday is Round 4.
Round 1 actually took place Oct. 18 in the preseason. Coach Tom Thibodeau and Pacers coach Frank Vogel approached the exhibition as if it were Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Starters from both teams were back in the game down the stretch in the Bulls’ 103-98 victory at the United Center.
Round 2 came in Indiana on Nov. 6, and the Pacers won 97-80 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first regular-season meeting.
Round 3 came 10 days later. Derrick Rose had 20 points to halt the Pacers’ nine-game winning streak and hand them their first blemish 110-94.
A lot has changed since those three games. Rose was lost for the season, and Luol Deng was traded to the Cavaliers. The Pacers acquired Evan Turner and signed Andrew Bynum. Former Pacer D.J. Augustin has given the once-sagging Bulls a huge boost.
What hasn’t changed?
“We don’t like them,’’ Butler said.
Augustin said the feeling is mutual. He would know. He was with the Pacers for the 2012-13 season, and it was a rough year for him. Playing time declined as the season went on, and he was off to the Raptors after the season.
“I didn’t get an opportunity there,’’ Augustin said. “The systems are different, the coaches are different, so that’s in the past. I’m trying to not even think about that. I’m here now, trying to make the best of this situation.’’
It was only for a season, but Augustin saw how his former teammates had little love for the Bulls. They felt the Bulls treated them with disdain and disliked how Bulls fans would flood Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“Whenever we played Chicago in Indy, there would be a lot of Bulls fans there,’’ Augustin said.
Butler was hoping for the same Friday night.
“That’s huge, having a lot of fans everywhere,’’ Butler said. “Big rivalry, and we need all the help we can get.’’