Bulls hold off Pacers without Joakim Noah; Nate Robinson ejected
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com March 23, 2013 9:48PM
Carlos Boozer, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds, tries to drive past Pacers forward Tyler Hansbrough. | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times
The facts: 6 p.m., CSN, 1000-AM.
Updated: April 25, 2013 7:21AM
Ask Pacers guard Lance Stephenson if this rivalry is turning into something a bit more heated.
With 27 seconds left in the third quarter, Stephenson was knocked to the floor after getting horse-collared by Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who was ejected when the foul was deemed a flagrant 2.
Ask Bulls guard Daequan Cook if Pacers-Bulls means something more than just another regular-season game.
Cook chased down a loose ball in the fourth quarter, saved it as he was diving into a pile of cheerleaders and cameramen and had to be helped off the court with a bruised left thigh. He didn’t return, but the Bulls won 87-84 at the United Center.
“Yeah, it’s a tough rivalry,’’ Pacers All-Star Paul George said. “Right now, we’re still competing for the division championship and playoff spots.’’
But even with the victory, the Bulls trail the Pacers by five games.
Coach Tom Thibodeau is hoping his players finally understand the effort and intensity it will take if they want to make an impact.
Derrick Rose was still sidelined, and the Bulls (37-31) also were without center Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis, right foot).
“The challenge for us all year has been this: Short-handed, we’ve got to play with great intensity all the time,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s our chance.
‘‘And then we’ve shown resiliency all year long. You have a tough loss, you’ve got to bounce back quick. You go down another guy, whoever the next guy is, get in there, get the job done. I like that part of it. Going through some adversity is good. I think in the end it makes you better. I want us to be mentally tough. I want us to have the ability to get through things.’’
The Bulls were led by Luol Deng’s 20 points and Carlos Boozer’s 18 points and 10 rebounds, but it was the next guys up who were big.
Starting for Noah, Nazr Mohammed scored 11 points and battled in the paint with Roy Hibbert.
Cook came off the bench to score nine points, and he also grabbed five rebounds.
Those were the performances Thibodeau pointed out.
“Nazr, big lift; Daequan, big lift,’’ Thibodeau said. “So we needed everybody.’’
Cook’s thigh injury makes him a question mark for the game in Minnesota on Sunday night, but he seemed willing to do whatever is asked if he can go.
“That’s the most important thing: Coach calls your name, it’s about taking advantage of the opportunity, doing what you can as a player to help your team win,’’ Cook said. “That’s what I tried to do.
“It’s all about preparation, waiting your turn. Making sure you’re prepared because you never know when you’re going to get called to help the team out. I’m always prepared for whatever task they want me to do.’’
The victory helped the Bulls snap a two-game losing streak on the homestand and avoid a season sweep by the Pacers.
“Every single victory counts,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. “It took heart.’’