Fresh ink: February 23, 2009

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Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star: “T.J. Ford darted between two Chicago Bulls players, scooped up the loose ball with two hands and beat everybody down the court with only one thing on his mind in the final minute Sunday. The Indiana Pacers point guard sized things up and threw down a one-handed dunk. He turned toward the Bulls bench and let out a roar that could have been mistaken for coming from a 6-10 behemoth as opposed to a wispy 6-foot point guard. Aggressiveness. Determination. Fight. That’s what Pacers coach Jim O’Brien wanted, and that’s what he got in his team’s 98-91 victory over the Bulls in a matinee game at Conseco Fieldhouse. ‘You can talk about a number of plays down the stretch that we made,’ Pacers guard Jarrett Jack said. ‘I thought we just outhustled them.’”

John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times: “The new-look Bulls reverted to old habits Sunday, crumbling down the stretch in a 98-91 loss to the short-handed Indiana Pacers. The game resembled the Bulls’ struggles in January more than their two solid performances last week in victories against the Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets after the All-Star break. ‘At times our guys played hard,’ coach Vinny Del Negro said. ‘I didn’t think we had a sense of urgency like we needed to in this game.’ That’s odd for a team that doesn’t have much margin for error if it hopes to get into the playoffs. With the Pacers (24-34) missing All-Star Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy, the Bulls (25-31) wasted an opportunity to maintain their momentum and gain ground. ‘We didn’t get enough stops,” said Ben Gordon, who led the Bulls with a game-high 28 points. ”We did some decent things out there, but we didn’t make the necessary plays when the game was on the line.’”

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune: “Maybe the Bulls should go back to dressing only eight players. The sense of urgency and desperation that had defined back-to-back victories since the All-Star break vanished Sunday in a flat performance at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Pacers won 98-91. And that’s not to pin this loss on new Bulls Brad Miller, John Salmons and Tim Thomas, who played effectively after just one walk-through and spearheaded a third-quarter run that erased all but one of a 14-point deficit. Instead, the Bulls didn’t push the tempo enough, surrendered 17 offensive rebounds and failed to control Troy Murphy’s hustle and T.J. Ford’s penetration to lose to a team missing its top two scorers in Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy. Murphy led Indiana with a season-high 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Ford had 19 points and five assists.”

Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: “With 3:04 left in the contest and the Bulls struggling to pull ahead in a close game against Indiana, coach Vinny Del Negro decided to pull Bulls veterans Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah in favor of NBA veterans Brad Miller and John Salmons, who happened to be playing their first game for the Bulls. While Noah methodically marched to the sideline, Thomas sprinted over with a smile on his face and slapped hands with everyone on the bench before sitting down. Thomas was trying to keep a good attitude about the changes that will be in store as the Bulls figure out how to incorporate three new players acquired just before the trade deadline. Tim Thomas also made his debut Sunday and played well in 8 minutes of action. At the one-minute mark, Tyrus Thomas was back on the floor after Indiana guard T.J. Ford hit a bank shot over Miller and Kirk Hinrich that most likely would never have met the backboard if Thomas was the one jumping over to help.”

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