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Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers clamoring to be noticed

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



It’s not easy going from the side of a milk carton to a wanted poster in one afternoon, but Tyler Hansbrough has never been one to get short-changed.

He wasn’t during his days at North Carolina, breaking record after record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and he wasn’t going to be in the Indiana Pacers’ 104-99 loss to the Bulls in Game 1 of a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series Saturday.

Whether it was his hard foul of Derrick Rose in the fourth quarter that resulted in a technical foul for Luol Deng or his post-dunk, arms-out celebration after he ripped the ball from Carlos Boozer with 3:38 left and slammed it home, ‘‘Psycho T’’ made his presence felt — to the complete dislike of the sellout crowd at the United Center.

Danny Granger isn’t the only Pacer whom Bulls fans can love to hate for the next week.

‘‘A lot of people have written us off,’’ Hansbrough said of the intensity he displayed. ‘‘We showed we can play with them, but now it’s our time to come in and get a win.’’

Confidence, anyone?

The only thing more shocking to Bulls fans than Hansbrough scoring 22 points Saturday, including 16 in the second half, might be the fact that he’s still playing in the NBA.

After the Pacers made him the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft, his rookie-year resumé read like that of a future D-League All-Star: 29 games, 8.5 points per game. An inner-ear problem limited his playing time and relegated him to obscurity. Out of sight, out of mind is reality in the NBA.

Even during this past regular season, Hansbrough showed no signs of being a scoring threat. But on Saturday, he was picking-and-popping the No. 8-seeded Pacers to a 10-point lead late in the game until the bottom fell out.

Physical, verbal fighters

Hansbrough looked as if he thought he was a giant rooster chasing worms around a barnyard, thanks to an elbow to the head from Kurt Thomas that had concussion written all over it. Hansbrough was brought into the locker room for several minutes at the end of the third quarter and given the appropriate tests, then was back at it, making life miserable for the defensively challenged Boozer.

‘‘The guy is a big-time competitor . . . big-time,’’ Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ‘‘I’m glad he’s on my team.’’

Vogel could have said that about most of his players after Game 1. Competitive, yes. Cocky, even more so. Granger might have set the tone earlier this week when he said the Pacers preferred to play the top-seeded Bulls in the first round, but it’s obviously contagious.

After the loss, Pacers center Roy Hibbert fired off.

‘‘It’s going to be like this every night. We’re not backing down from nobody. Best get used to that. . . . It’s going to be a dogfight. They know what’s coming now — they know we’re not going to back down. All the talk that we’re not supposed to be here, they know. Something is going to change, and we’re going to get it done. I’m telling you that right now as a fact.’’

Not to be outdone, teammate Darren Collison said, ‘‘We haven’t been intimidated by nobody all year long. You look at some of the teams we’ve beat throughout the season — they’ll tell you. . . . We still think we’ll leave here winning a game.’’

Rose’s play speaks loudest

Say this about the Pacers: They’ve got some spunk.

But I’ll also say this: The Pacers played the best game they could play, and it still wasn’t good enough. Talking a big game afterward might be a good coping mechanism, but the reality is they’re still too inexperienced to knock off the top dog. More important, they have no solution for slowing down Rose.

Collison hung with the MVP-in-waiting for a half, but Rose’s 39 points — including 21 free-throw attempts — was Exhibit A as to why this series has five games left at the most.

‘‘I look at 39, and I’m shocked that I see 39 because I thought we did a very good job on him,’’ Vogel said. ‘‘The kid’s out of this world. He’s got Allen Iverson’s speed, Jason Kidd’s vision, Chauncey Billups’ shooting and Michael Jordan’s athleticism. How do you guard that?’’

The same way everyone else has this season — you don’t. You hope it’s an off night and take your chances with keeping Deng, Boozer and Joakim Noah in check.

That will be the Pacers’ plan for Game 2 on Monday night.

‘‘We respect them; we respect the best shot they threw at us,’’ Collison said. ‘‘We know the effort they will bring [Monday]. But we’re still standing, and we’re bringing it, too.’’

Slide over, Hansbrough. You might have to make some more room on that wanted poster.



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