Published April 19, 2011
CHICAGO – Two playoff games, two dramatic victories for the favored Chicago Bulls, and all is right in Carlos Boozer's eyes.
Derrick Rose scored 36 points, Boozer added 17 points and 16 rebounds, and top-seeded Chicago escaped with another comeback victory over Indiana, beating the Pacers 96-90 on Monday night in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
"Every game will be tough," Boozer said. "There's not going to be any easy games in this playoffs in any series. So we look forward to some more tough games. We're built for that. We've had close games all season, and we don't expect any easy games."
Rose went wild again, scoring eight points over the final 4 minutes. Kyle Korver, who made a tiebreaking 3-pointer in Chicago's opening 104-99 victory Saturday, connected from long range to make it 90-85 with just over a minute left.
The Pacers still wouldn't go away.
A.J. Price drew a foul on Rose and hit three free throws to get Indiana within two with 23.4 seconds remaining. But Luol Deng made two free throws, Mike Dunleavy missed a 3-point attempt at the other end and Ronnie Brewer hit two foul shots to help the Bulls hold on.
Chicago made its last 16 free throws to finish 27 for 34.
"Our play has to get better," said Rose, who powered the Bulls to an NBA-best 62-20 record in the regular season. "We have to be more smooth, more efficient, especially on the defensive end where we have to try a lot harder. But I feel like we're going to get things together pretty quickly."
The Pacers were right there even though they lost Darren Collison to a sprained left ankle late in the first half. Collison said X-rays were negative but he isn't sure if he will be available for Thursday night's Game 3 at Conseco Fieldhouse.
"Right now, it's just real sore and swelled up pretty bad," he said.
Indiana threw a few more looks at Rose but still couldn't corral the dynamic point guard, who also had eight rebounds and six assists — and six of Chicago's 22 turnovers.
"We did a great job on him all night," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "He's a great player. He made key plays down the stretch to win a game for them."
Rose, likely headed for his first NBA MVP award, scored 39 points in Game 1, when Chicago closed with a 16-1 run to avoid the upset. He didn't get to the line quite as much this time but made the most of his opportunities, hitting 12 of 13 free throws after making 19 of 21 in the opener.
"I feel like this was the sequel to the Derrick Rose show," Indiana forward Danny Granger said. "It really just happened all over again."
Boozer came up big after a quiet Game 1 to help the Bulls dominate the boards (57-33) and come away with the win despite shooting 38.6 percent and a rash of turnovers.
Granger led Indiana with 19 points, but Tyler Hansbrough struggled, finishing with just six points on 2-of-12 shooting after scoring 22 points in the opener.
"We feel like we've outplayed them for most of the series," Price said.
Indiana's T.J. Ford provided the shot of the game when he banked in a 55-foot heave at the third-quarter buzzer to tie it at 67, sending loud oohs and aahs through the arena.
But the Bulls let out a big sigh of relief in the end. They realize there's plenty of room for improvement, but they're still in control.
For that, they can thank Rose.
"He made big play after big play," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He kept attacking the basket. They put a lot of pressure on him. He made the right play. He made the right decisions."
NOTES: Bulls G Ronnie Brewer said he doesn't expect his sprained left thumb to heal until after the season and will likely play with pain the rest of the way. "It's not like it's just going to heal after a day or two," he said. "We practice every day. It's not like I'm sitting out or taking plays off." ... Former Bull Cliff Levingston presented the game ball before the opening tip. ... Fans cheered Bears coach Lovie Smith when he was shown during a timeout late in the first quarter. ... The Pacers have not won a playoff game since Game 3 of their first-round series with New Jersey in 2006. They dropped the next three games to bow out in six and did not get back to the postseason until this year. ... Price finished with 13 points.