Pacers looking for some attention from Bulls
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com February 5, 2013 9:38PM
Chicago Bulls guard Nate Robinson, right, puts his foot against Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert as he shoots in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: February 5, 2013 11:56PM
It’s taken some time. This didn’t happen overnight.
A few Tyler Hansbrough “Psycho T’’ hard fouls, some trash talk since a postseason meeting in 2011 and the Indiana Pacers’ belief that they deserve what the Bulls have had the last two seasons — the keys to the Central Division penthouse — bam, now we have a rivalry.
If only the Bulls got the memo.
In talking with Bulls players about teams they view as rivals, the Pacers don’t make the cut.
The Bulls have more venom for the Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. ‘‘Hollywood as hell,’’ as Joakim Noah famously described the Heat two seasons ago, just carries more weight than “Midwest as all heck.’’
The Pacers are screaming, “Hey, you better look out for us!’’ But the Bulls aren’t listening.
Maybe they’d better start.
In losing to the Pacers 111-101 on Monday, the Bulls dropped to 0-2 against the team that was the preseason pick to dethrone the Derrick Rose-less division champs. While it appeared to be more hype than substance through the first two months of the season, that’s no longer the case.
David West is playing like the veteran presence he was expected to be when he arrived from the New Orleans Hornets two years ago. Paul George is knocking on the door of superstardom in only his third year in the league.
And the Pacers are doing all of it without star Danny Granger, who is out with a knee injury. The team is basically a mirror image of the Bulls without Rose, but to a lesser extent.
So the Pacers had some swagger in the wake of their victory Monday.
“This was very important,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “This was a game we had to get. We had to do whatever we had to do to get this one.
“I really feel like the final two games [in the season series] are going to dictate who is going to win [the division].’’
Those final two games — March 3 at Indiana and March 23 at the United Center — could very well determine the division champ. But they also could play a role in who meets the Heat in the second round of the playoffs.
For most of the season, the Heat has led the Eastern Conference, with the Knicks a close second. The Pacers, Bulls and Brooklyn Nets have had their moments, but they pretty much have held the third, fourth and fifth spots.
The Pacers hope to stay in the No. 3 spot. That would pit the Bulls and Nets in the first round, with the winner most likely facing the Heat.
That’s the big picture. The small picture is the Pacers have been demanding respect from the Bulls since they were eliminated by Rose and Co. two seasons ago, but it’s almost falling on deaf ears.
“We’re not backing down from nobody. Best get used to that. It’s going to be a dogfight,’’ Pacers center Roy Hibbert said after Game 1 of that playoff series. “They know what’s coming now. They know we’re not going to back down.’’
The Bulls discarded the Pacers in five games.
Two years later, they still don’t seem ready to take them seriously.