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Pacers still have a pulse and the heart to match

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

INDIANAPOLIS — Being 67 years old and first on the Mayo Clinic’s heart transplant list came in handy interviewing the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

Their quotes, one day after beating the top-seeded Bulls 89-84 at Conseco Fieldhouse, reminded me of “Heart,” a song from the Broadway musical ‘‘Damn
Yankees,’’ which debuted in 1955.

See. Told you I’m old.

The song starts as follows: “You gotta have heart. All you really need is heart. When the odds are saying you’ll never win, that’s when the grin should start .  .  .”

And there the Pacers were: grinning and talking about turning their 3-1 deficit into 3-2 when they play the Bulls on Tuesday night in Game 5 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal.

Asked how the Pacers could do that, point guard Darren Collison said, “We just gotta keep doing it. We gotta continue to play with heart.”

Atta boy, Collison.

“It comes down to execution,” he said. “But at the same time, you got to have that mental willingness to win.”

The underdog, inexperienced Pacers showed plenty of heart Saturday when they weathered a surprisingly partisan Bulls crowd on their own home court. They withstood a rally in which the Bulls trimmed a 13-point deficit with 2:17 to play down to one point with 15.3 seconds left.

Led by point guard Derrick Rose, the Bulls showed their share of heart, too, in staging that riveting, raucous rally. Rose bounced back from a sprained left ankle in the first quarter. It was the same injury that sidelined Collison for the second half of Game 2. Rose
engineered the rally with three steals, three assists and five points.

“It made me think about my own injury,” Collison said. “And if he didn’t play anymore, it would have favored [the Pacers] because [the Bulls] wouldn’t have been able to execute. But he’s Derrick Rose. He’s the MVP. He can still beat you in so many different ways.”

Who has the superior momentum and heart going into Game 5?
The Bulls, who rallied again in the fourth quarter? Or the Pacers, who finally finished a game they had dominated for the first three quarters?

“We do,” Pacers forward Danny Granger said. “We showed heart in standing up to all the pressure and not completely coming apart the way we had been doing. Sure, the Bulls have the advantage playing in the United Center. They’ll have an even bigger and louder crowd behind them.

“But we’ve already shown we can go there and compete. We could have been up 3-1 instead of down 1-3. What we must do is keep our poise and not let our emotions get the best of us. We’ve had mental breakdowns when the game was on the line. But we’ve learned from that. Sure, no team has ever come back from an 0-3 deficit. But some team has got to do it at some point. Right? Why not us?”

Coach Frank Vogel agrees that his Pacers have superior momentum.

“I’ve always felt like whoever won the last game has the momentum,” Vogel said. “And that’s how I feel now.”

Vogel admitted that the Bulls’ defensive traps in the fourth
quarter probably disrupted them the most. Does he expect the Bulls to trap earlier?

“No, it’s not their scheme,” Vogel said. “They just did it because they were down too big so late. If they’re down by double digits again in the last three minutes, they’ll trap again.”

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