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Bulls get best of a way-too-physical series

Pacers coach Frank Vogel defended Josh McRoberts who was ejected. Vogel said it was just physical basketball not dirty play.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel defended Josh McRoberts, who was ejected. Vogel said it was just physical basketball, not dirty play. Still, the referees let the rough stuff get out of hand. | Nam Y. Huh~AP

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Updated: May 28, 2011 12:37AM

Now that that’s over, any chance we can get back to basketball?

The Bulls took this series out of its misery with a 116-89 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 5 that clinched their Eastern Conference first-round series 4-1 on Tuesday night at the United Center.

Though the Bulls finally won in a rout, the game was as physical as any in the series. Too physical. The Pacers had two technical fouls and one ejection. If this series had gone to Game 6, it would only have been a matter of time before players would’ve been taking swings at each other.

‘‘This is playoff basketball,’’ said Joakim Noah, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots. ‘‘It’s intense. It’s rough. It’s been rough all series.’’

Noah found himself in the middle of the biggest altercation.

On a long rebound in the third quarter, he incurred the wrath of Josh McRoberts, who shoved Noah with his forearm as Noah went for the rebound, then did it again, nearly whiffing on the second try.

McRoberts was ejected. But the blame went to the referees, who set it all up by allowing the game and the series to become so rough that nobody knew what a foul was anymore. No wonder players were upset.

‘‘It’s the name of the game,’’ Noah said. ‘‘You’ve just got to keep your cool in these situations, and today we got the last laugh.’’

But Pacers star Danny Granger didn’t go down easy. Not only did Granger lead the Pacers with 20 points, but he accused Noah of dirty play that precipitated the McRoberts ejection.

It was kind of a silly charge after this series, which the Pacers mucked up — legally — and only got worse because the officials failed to keep things in order.

‘‘Come on, man,’’ Noah said when asked to respond. ‘‘I play dirty? OK. I’m just trying to win basketball games, man. It’s the name of the game.

‘‘You guys all see the games. You know what happened. I’m just out there doing what I got to do.

‘‘I’ll give a lot of credit to their team. They played hard as hell. They were competitive. I’ve got nothing bad to say about those guys. But there’s no lying. Everybody saw what was going on out there. Now you want to call me a dirty player? I don’t think I’ve ever been a dirty player. It is what it is.’’

Kyle Korver, who doesn’t exactly mix it up inside for a living, couldn’t believe after everything else that went on in the series that Granger would call anybody dirty.

‘‘Come on now,’’ Korver said. ‘‘All this stuff we’ve talked about with the Pacers the last few days and their hard fouls? Come on. It’s the playoffs, right?

‘‘It’s the playoffs. That’s what it is. There are going to be hard fouls. Things are going to be said. And Jo played with a lot of energy. Jo
played great. Jo’s one of those
guys when you’re not on his team, he [ticks] you off. That’s just how it is.

‘‘Just like Jeff Foster [of the Pacers]. When he’s on your team, you love him. When he’s not on your team, you hate him. That’s one of the special things about Jo.’’

‘‘It was just physical basketball,’’ Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of McRoberts’ ejection. ‘‘He said he got an elbow in the throat. In this series, everybody got an elbow in the throat.’’

This series seemed to push the physical nature of the game pretty close to the edge.

Even a jump ball between Taj Gibson and Granger nearly turned into an incident, with both players jawing at each other before cooler heads prevailed.

‘‘We just both went for the basketball,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘Just two basketball players making a play to help our team. We just made an aggressive play — no bad intentions. It’s just basketball.’’

Playoff basketball.

‘‘That’s just the way it’s going to be,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘We’re not going to back down. They weren’t going to back down. We just played with a toughness. That’s the one thing about Thibs [coach Tom Thibodeau]. He’s a tough-minded coach. He wants us to play tough-minded and strong. And tonight we did that.

‘‘We just came in with a lot of encouragement, having had two days off. We didn’t like the way we were playing. We didn’t like the way our mentality was. We wanted to come in and send a message and get ourselves on the right foot going into the next series.’’

And that one, they say, will be
just as physical as this one, if not more so.

‘‘As the playoffs go on, it gets more and more like that, which is fine. We’ve got a tough team,’’ Korver said. ‘‘We want to be smart about it. We don’t want to get technical fouls, obviously. We don’t want to get anyone suspended or lose money.

''But at the same time, you have to stand up to them. You get a hard foul, you have to give one back. That’s just the way it is.’’

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