INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Derrick Rose took the Pacers' best shots in Game 3.
Chicago's star guard picked himself up off the floor and still delivered the decisive blow.
Rose beat Dahntay Jones off the dribble, getting a rare clean shot to the basket with 17.8 seconds left for the go-ahead layup that gave the Bulls an 88-84 victory and a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference series.
Take that, Pacers.
``It was frustrating a little bit,' Rose admitted of Thursday's strong-armed tactics. ``But that's basketball. If you don't stand up to it, no one will.'
Rose, as usual, did his part.
Yes, he spent the first three quarters contending with the bigger Paul George, the feisty Jones and the relentless Jeff Foster, once running smack into an elbow and repeatedly taking hard fouls that sent him sprawling on the floor.
The continual punches did a number on the Bulls' MVP candidate.
He made only 4 of 18 shots, just one basket in the second half and finished with only two assists and five turnovers in 42 1/2 minutes. The game obviously took a toll on Rose, who slowly climbed the stairs to the dais for the postgame news conference.
But Rose still found ways to produce.
He went 13 of 15 from the free-throw line, finished with 23 points and his late layup put Chicago on the verge of a first-round sweep. Game 4 will be played Saturday afternoon in Indy, against a Pacers team that seems as dismayed with its inability to close out Chicago as Rose was with Indiana's strategy.
``It's very frustrating,' Pacers swingman Danny Granger said after missing a potential go-ahead 3-point attempt in the last 2 seconds. ``To know we're so close in so many games, just a few more plays to win the game or send it to overtime. It's just too many mistakes, too many mental breakdowns.'
It's not only Rose causing problems for the Pacers.
Kyle Korver continued his late-game mastery by scoring half of the Bulls' points in a 10-0 run that turned a 70-65 fourth-quarter deficit into a 75-70 lead with 7:04 to go. Korver finished with 12 points.
Luol Deng had 21 points, six assists and six rebounds - his biggest coming after Granger missed the 3. Deng made the last two free throws to seal the victory. Joakim Noah had 11 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer had 11 rebounds in the kind of physical contest he prefers.
``It was right up my alley,' Boozer said with a smile. ``I love to get down and dirty.'
That's exactly what the Bulls needed to get past eighth-seeded Indiana, which has not trailed by more than seven points in the series.
The Pacers were led by Granger with 21 points, Jones with 11 and Tyler Hansbrough's 10.
But their top priority was stopping Rose, who had scored 75 points in the first two games.
``I thought we did a great job on Rose,' Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. ``I had a lot of confidence that they would do a good job on him.'
The problem was they didn't do nearly as good a job defending everyone else.
As Rose adapted to the Pacers' changing defenses and traps, his teammates swung the ball to find open shooters - and defensively, the Bulls took a page right out of the Pacers' physical playbook.
Indiana shot just 37.9 percent and was 1 of 10 from 3-point range - not enough to beat the East's No. 1 seed even with an off-night from Rose.
``So what? I missed shots,' Rose said. ``My teammates were hitting them.'
Indiana used an 8-0 second-quarter run to take its first lead but settled for a 42-42 halftime tie.
The Pacers led briefly again in the third quarter before making two free throws to close the third quarter and scoring the first six points of the fourth to build a 70-65 lead with 9:28 left.
That's when Rose and Korver took control.
``Kyle did come to me, and it's great when you have a teammate come to you as the point guard,' Rose said. ``We kept going to him because we knew (Darren) Collison would be on him and he has a great release, pretty high.'
Collison also was playing with a sprained left ankle.
Korver took advantage by hitting a 3-pointer to make it 75-70 and another 3 to push it to 78-74 with 6:01 left.
But when the Bulls needed a late basket, they went right back to Rose, who found the crease he needed to put Indiana on the verge of elimination.
``The whole time, I was just thinking I'll go to the hole,' Rose said. ``It was tough the whole night the way they were playing, but at that time, I saw space and went for it.'
NOTES: Former Pacers star Reggie Miller said he remembers the early 1990s when his team would host the Bulls at Market Square Arena and the crowd would be about 60 percent Bulls fans. He said that changed when the Pacers proved to be legitimate Eastern Conference contenders. ... Noting Chicago's history of traveling in large numbers, Vogel asked the fans to support the team, joking that metal detectors would keep Bulls fans out of the building. ... The game was a sellout, and Indiana had a clear advantage in crowd support. Indiana, which was last in the league in attendance during the regular season, had just six sellouts before Thursday's game. ... Rev. Jesse Jackson attended the game to support the Bulls. He stood along the baseline in pregame warmups, and even chatted with Rose for a few moments.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved