Told that Taj Gibson said “there’s a lot of floppers’’ on the Pacers, Roy Hibbert wasn’t making too much of the barb.
“Taj called us floppers,’’ the Indiana big man said after Indiana’s shootaround at the United Center on Monday. “I haven’t taken a charge in probably four years. He’s entitled to his opinion. I’m just going to go out there and play hard.’’
Likewise, other Bulls and Pacers weren’t making too much of their rivalry going into to their meeting on the West Side tonight.
“You can’t allow your emotions to get in the way of getting the job done,’’ Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think you [media] guys are into the rivalry. We know they’re good. To beat a good team, you have to play well. I think the focus has to be on what are the things that are necessary to win?’’
Pacers coach Frank Vogel wasn’t going there, either. After declining to comment on flopping, he also kept his rivalry thoughts to himself.
“I don’t really want to comment on rivalries, to be honest with you,’’ Vogel said. “I think rivalries are for media to talk about. I don’t really like when players say it’s a rivalry or not a rivalry, or when coaches say it’s a rivalry or not a rivalry. I think that’s for you guys to decide.’’
It’s also for fans to decide. And the suspicion here is that the UC will be packed with fans who would enjoy beating Indiana more than, say, Cleveland or Utah.
Since their spirited 2011 playoff series, Indiana has been making great strides. The Pacers are now a solid No. 2 seed behind Miami. Even if the coaches and players aren’t there yet, fans and media are anticipating a renewal of hostilities between the Bulls and Pacers.
“Chicago is a terrific team,’’ Hibbert said. “I have a lot of respect for how they continue to grow and play hard without DRose and even after trading away Deng. It’s going to be a competitive game. They always bring it. They play extremely hard. So that raises our level of competition too. It’s going to be a tough one tonight.’’
However you want to spin it, the Bulls are determined to do better than they did in their 91-79 loss at Indiana on Friday, which featured a 19-0 Pacers run in the third quarter.
“You’re supposed to be frustrated after a loss,’’ Joakim Noah said. “Everybody’s frustrated after a loss, you know? It’s all part of the process. Of course, Indiana’s a team we want to beat. We fell short last game, didn’t play our best. We have an opportunity to do it again tonight at the United Center, in front of our fans. So it’s going to be exciting in there. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the building. It’s going to be exciting.’’