The Bulls downplay any notion that they’re developing a rivalry with the Indiana Pacers despite their hard-fought, physical five-game series in the first round of the playoffs last season.
The Pacers feel differently.
“I don’t particularly have a great friendship with them just because of the players that they have and who they are, the history,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. “But you could say it’s a rivalry. I want to beat them a lot. As many times as we play them, I want to beat the hell out of them.”
Figuratively and physically.
In the playoffs last season, the four-headed monster of Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster set the tone and committed 63 fouls.
Hibbert committed five fouls in each of the first three games of the series.
The Pacers lost McRoberts to the Lakers via free agency, but their mentality hasn’t changed.
“We like to rebound, limit their offensive rebounds,” Hibbert said. “Our motto is smash-mouth, so that’s what we do.”
The Bulls, however, say they don’t pay much attention to the Pacers or any team, for that matter.
By his own admission, Ronnie Brewer didn’t even know the Pacers’ record. He has, however, taken notice of their physical play – a memory that has lasted since the playoffs.
“The way that last year ended and every game that we played against them has been tough,” Brewer said. ‘‘It’s been physical. It’s a real close opponent, and they’re a very proven team. They’ve got a lot of talent on their team, very well-coached. It’s always going to be a tough game whenever we play them.”
Brewer took particular notice of Pacers coach Frank Vogel during the playoffs because he was able to match wits with coach Tom Thibodeau.
“Coaching is all about adjustments, and whenever we did something, he made adjustments to try to change it,” Brewer said. “They’re a young team without a lot of playoff experience, and they gave us a hard-fought series.”