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Bulls tired of talk of subpar play against Pacers, ready to move on

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Now we find out whether this is going to be ‘‘a good series,’’ as Indiana coach Frank Vogel promised. Or a quick series, as many experts predicted.

Maybe the Bulls did squeak by in the first two games. But they can grab this first-round series by the throat tonight. And they sound just fed up enough with all the clamor about them not playing well to do it.

‘‘I don’t feel fortunate at all,’’ forward Luol Deng said Wednesday. ‘‘We won both games, whether we played good or bad. A lot is being said about that. At the end of the day, we won both games.’’

Nothing would make a louder statement than a victory at Conseco Fieldhouse tonight. And for all the ruminating about the Bulls leaning
too hard on Derrick Rose for
offense, needing to tighten up their defense, needing to shake off the 38 percent shooting and 21 turnovers of Game 2, there’s an extra reason they could be ready to do some

The Bulls don’t know if Pacers point guard Darren Collison will play — and how limited he’ll be if he plays. But Collison, who has vowed to play if he’s in any position to do so, sat out practice Wednesday, prompting Vogel to call him ‘‘doubtful’’ for tonight.

With A.J. Price and T.J. Ford stepping in, the Pacers carried on well after Collison went down with a sprained left ankle a couple of minutes before halftime of Game 2. But it would be Advantage, Bulls, if Collison, who was doing a good job against Rose, is unable to keep that pressure on.

‘‘They’ll definitely miss him if he’s out,’’ Bulls assistant coach Adrian Griffin said. ‘‘With his energy, he makes Derrick play on both ends of the court. He’s definitely a big piece of what they’re doing.’’

That said, the Bulls know that their No. 1 seed and Indiana’s No. 8
seed don’t mean much when the games begin. With or without
Collison, the Pacers, who pushed the Bulls to the brink before coming up short in the first two games, are a dangerous young team.

‘‘I don’t think people realize how good a team Indiana is,’’ Griffin said. ‘‘We don’t want to sell them short and say we’re playing bad. I just think they’re playing great. Give them credit. They pushed us to the limit twice on our home court. We’ll try to return the favor and play well on their home court.’’

The spotlight again will be on Rose, who followed his playoff career-high 39 points in Game 1 with 36 points in Game 2. Those MVP-caliber efforts have renewed talk about whether the Bulls lean too hard on their standout point guard — and if that’s going to spell trouble down the playoff road.

‘‘There’s always going to be something,’’ Deng said. ‘‘Whether Derrick goes out and scores 50 — for us, as a team, it’s whatever it takes to win the game. [Tonight] it might be someone else. It’s up to you guys to always come up with a different story.

‘‘Whoever’s saying we’re leaning
on Derrick too much, they can write that for now. If he keeps doing that, we’ll take it as long as we’re winning.’’

Looking hard-boiled when asked if the Bulls are looking forward to getting out of town and out of the unblinking spotlight in Chicago, coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t
interested in that story line.

‘‘We’re looking forward to the next game. That’s it,’’ he said, more interested in nuts and bolts.

Weary of the winning-without-style points chatter, his players seem to feel the same hungry way.

‘‘We just don’t want to relax,’’ Deng said. ‘‘Whether we win by 20 or win by one, there’s always going to be something we want to get
better at. We’re never too high, never too low. We know where we want to go.’’

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