It's nice to see the rivalry between the Bulls and the Indiana Pacers heating up again.
The NBA regular season is long and mostly pointless. Half the teams in the league suck. There isn't a lot of parity, and there are probably only four or five teams that have a legitimate shot at winning a championship this year. Until the conference finals begin, it's hard for me to be real interested in the NBA.
But, if you have a couple teams that dislike each other the way the Bulls and Pacers do, it can provide good theater while the world waits for meaningful games to start sometime in May.
Derrick Rose was pissed at the Pacers for celebrating on the United Center floor after they beat the Bulls on Jan. 25, and he vowed revenge.
"I'll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game," Rose told reporters after the loss in January. "I can't wait to play them again."
That day finally arrived Monday. Early on, it looked like Rose would be unable to back up his comments. He shot 1-for-9 from the floor in the first half and scored only two points. In fact, Rose, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer combined to shoot 3-for-21 over the first two quarters, and the Pacers took a 43-42 halftime lead into the locker room.
Still, I figured the Bulls would come out and bomb Indiana in the second half. There was just no way all three of those guys were gonna stink for the whole game. Indeed, Rose and Deng led a huge Bulls charge in the third quarter. Chicago outscored Indiana 33-13 and went on to a 92-72 win.
Deng recovered from the slow start to finish with 20 points and six rebounds. Rose added 13 points and nine assists.
But the real story was the Bulls bench. Reserve players tallied 25 points in the first half while Rose and the gang struggled. That kept Chicago in the game. At the end of the night, Bulls starters had scored 46 points. Led by John Lucas III (13 points) and Ronnie Brewer (12 points), Bulls reserves had also scored 46 points.
Joakim Noah totaled 17 rebounds to lead the Bulls to a dominating 60-32 edge on the boards. Chicago outscored Indiana 20-4 on second-chance points.
At the end of the game, the Bulls put little-used reserve Brian Scalabrine into the lineup. The whitest white man in the NBA scored a bucket in the final seconds, prompting an excessive demonstration on the bench from Noah, Rose and Brewer (pictured above). You knew that was coming.
The next meeting between these two teams is April 25 in Indiana. That's the second-to-last game of the regular season. It may not mean much for the standings, but you can count on an intense, physical game between two division rivals who appear to be getting under each other's skin.