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Derrick Rose flashes the old magic as Bulls top Pacers 92-87

Paul George shoots over Luol Deng Joakim Noah. (DarrCummings/AP Photo)

Paul George shoots over Luol Deng and Joakim Noah. (Darron Cummings/AP Photo)

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Updated: May 28, 2012 8:59AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Derrick Rose blew into the lane for a vintage left-handed layup in the first quarter. It was startling because it happened so quickly and because it has been so long since we’ve seen Rose do what he does best.

The Bulls’ 92-87 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was less significant than Rose taking a major step forward in the second-to-last regular-season game. Don’t let his ugly stat line fool you. Rose was 3-for-11 from the field. He finished with 10 points and seven assists in 26 minutes. But he proved that while he might not have recovered fully from five injuries that have caused him to miss 26 games this season, he’s getting his bounce back, which is the best possible news for the Bulls.

‘‘I’m making sure they’re clean drives and I’m not getting hit too much,” Rose said. ‘‘I’m trying to put pressure on a defense like I was when I wasn’t hurt.”

The Bulls don’t care whether they play the New York Knicks or the Philadelphia 76ers when their first-round playoff series begins Saturday or Sunday at the United Center. Evidently, the Sixers would prefer to play the Bulls, or at least that’s what Chicago native Evan Turner told the Delaware County Times earlier this week when asked about finishing eighth and playing the Bulls instead of the Heat.

‘‘That means we’re dodging the tougher team,’’ he told the paper.

Bulls players didn’t take the bait.

‘‘Our goal is to win a championship,” forward Kyle Korver said when he learned what Turner said. ‘‘We don’t care who we play in the first round, second round or third round. We want to play them all. That’s our mind-set.”

Rose missed his first three shots and had a turnover before he scored. He pushed the ball late in the first half before losing his man with a crossover and shooting a eight-foot runner from the baseline. It rimmed out. He stole the rebound only to miss the layup. He shot a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down early in the third quarter, and it failed to draw iron.

He took Darren Collison off the dribble after returning to the game with 5:57 left in the fourth quarter and missed again but drew the foul and made both free throws.

That’s OK. Those shots will fall in time. The first priority is him getting healthy enough to do what makes his special.

‘‘I’m not trying to do too much out there,” Rose said. “I’m just trying to play with the team. I’m trying not to get re-injured. That’s the biggest thing.’’

Forward Carlos Boozer made 8 of 10 shots and finished with 16 points and seven rebounds against a Pacers team without star forward Danny Granger. Center Joakim Noah added 14 points and 14 rebounds while Korver had 20 off the bench, including 4 of 6 from three-point land.

Rip Hamilton shot just 2-for-10. Like Rose, his misses were on shots he usually makes. The two definitely need more time together, which is why coach Tom Thibodeau will continue to play his starters in Thursday’s regular-season finale against visiting Cleveland.



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