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Paul George’s words stoke Bulls’ rivalry with Pacers

Updated: December 17, 2013 6:18AM

TORONTO — Indiana Pacers forward Paul George laid it out simply last week: If the Bulls really feel like they want it, come take it.

“We want to step away from that shadow as the ‘little brothers’ of this division,” George told after a 97-80 victory over the Bulls last week. “[The Bulls’] success is the Michael Jordan era. This is a new age, this is a new team. It’s ours till they take it.”

The problem is the Pacers don’t seem eager to give it up.

They come into the United Center on Saturday night unbeaten at 9-0 and in early control of the Central Division. They also come into the game with a target on their back.

“It’s not a series that needs more hype than it already has,’’ Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said Friday. “I feel like the rivalry between us speaks for itself. I guess that makes us want it that much more.

“Some people pay attention to [George’s comments] around here. I don’t pay attention. Everyone has their own opinion. But I know every time they go up against us, it isn’t always the same story. Yeah, they got one win [this season], but I feel like we’ll get them next time. Indy along with every other team.’’

Roughing it up

Coach Tom Thibodeau likes that his players entered the weekend leading the NBA in free-throw percentage (.842), but he still would like to see a more physical brand of basketball.

“We can do better,’’ Thibodeau said. “That’s the nature of the league. You have to attack. And the way the game is being called, you have to aggressively go to the basket to get a call. You try and take advantage of that.’’

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