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Don’t sweep Pacers out of series just yet

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

For the top-seeded Bulls, Saturday’s 104-99 victory over the Indiana Pacers was too close for comfort.

For the Pacers, their near upset gave them every reason to be optimistic about Game 2, even though they trail one game to none in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series that resumes tonight at the United Center.

That’s why Pacers coach Frank Vogel said with firmness, “This is going to be a series.”

A 4-0 sweep would not be a series, of course, so the Pacers obviously are determined to win — and Saturday’s Pacers performance suggests this could be a long series. But aside from shooting well, the Pacers must do at least three other things to win.

First, they must keep Bulls star Derrick Rose from killing them at the line. Rose made 19 of 21 free throws while the Pacers shot 17 as a team.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to answer that question,” Vogel said when asked to explain how Rose got so many free throws.

In other words, Vogel probably would get fined if he said what he really wanted to about the officiating that awarded the Bulls 32 free throws and the Pacers 17. Still, Vogel tried to stay short of knocking the officials.

“We helped,” he said. “[Rose] drives to the basket. He’s impossible to take a charge on. So the league rules say that if you jump straight up and he jumps into you, then there should be a no-call. And that’s what we’re just trying to teach our guys to do.”

But the fouls Rose forced were not from jumping into defenders jumping up. He forced most of them with his slithery moves driving to the basket through active traffic.

“To get to the line 21 times showed his aggressiveness,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He probably could be there a lot more times, too.”

Rose thinks he should have been.

“Some calls I didn’t get, and a lot of them I did,” he said.

Second, the Pacers must drive more to the iron instead of opting for threes. Yes, converting 10 of 18 three-point tries helped them stay ahead of the Bulls until Kyle Korver hit a killer three with 48.4 seconds left to give the Bulls their first lead. But Thibodeau knows why Indiana was so successful from downtown, and he vowed to solve that problem.

“You can’t close short,” Thibodeau said. “We want to contain the ball better. We want to protect the paint. From there, you have to close out. You have to close hard to the line.

“We didn’t do that. We gave them too much air space. They were getting clean looks, and they made [their shots]. [Darren] Collison and A.J. Price in the first half, they’d stop behind a screen and hit threes. So we’ve got to clean that up.”

Third, the Pacers must find a way to nullify the crowd noise.

The Bulls found their usual strong sixth man in the loud sellout crowd. Pacers forward Danny Granger admitted that the 22,986 fans had a lot to do with their failure to stop the Bulls from a game-ending 16-1 run that erased the Pacers’ 98-88 lead in the final 3:38.

“It’s really difficult, especially when the crowd went crazy,” Granger said. “You can’t hear anything. On defense, you’re talking — but it’s like your lips are moving, and you can’t hear anything. So we just have to play and follow the principles that we learn in practice.”

But if anything, the United Center might be even louder tonight.

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