In this age of instantaneous reaction and social media frenzy, Derrick Rose caused his own stir simply by donning a sport coat and slacks to sit on the bench for the first time this season and since tearing his left ACL on April 28. Rose spent several stoppages sharing observations with teammates and jumped to his feet often to celebrate positive plays.
The Bulls missed two opportunities to tie in the waning seconds when Marco Belinelli — stellar all game — missed an off-balance 3-pointer and Joakim Noah failed to corral the loose ball on a rebound. David West, who led all scorers with 31 points, iced matters with two free throws with 0.5 seconds left.
"I'm proud of the way we competed," Noah said.
The Pacers' third straight victory over their Central Division rival assured them of winning the season series for the first time since 2003-04. It came with Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Taj Gibson and Richard Hamilton all sidelined by injuries and with Luol Deng and Nate Robinson playing through theirs.
Rose's presence only made his absence sting more.
"I know it's tough for him to be on the bench because I know how badly he wants to play," Noah said. "It feels good to have him out there."
Trailing by five with 3 minutes left, Luol Deng threw down his second flying dunk of the night and later fed Belinelli, who scored 20, with a full-court pass to bring the Bulls within one again. But George Hill sank two free throws and the Bulls committed a shot-clock violation.
West then rebounded his own miss and scored with 32.2 seconds left. Noah missed on a wild drive and the Bulls were forced to foul Hill, who split free throws with 25.6 seconds remaining for a six-point lead.
"We put shooting on the floor and have to execute," Thibodeau said.
Jimmy Butler, who scored a career-high 20 points, sank a 3-pointer. Hill missed both free throws with 13.6 seconds left, presenting the final, futile chance.
The Bulls trailed by 13 early and added Carlos Boozer's foul trouble atop all the injuries. Enter Vladimir Radmanovic and Nazr Mohammed.
A lineup of those two, Indianapolis native Marquis Teague, Belinelli and Butler energized the Bulls, pulling them within seven on several occasions, including at halftime.
Radmanovic powered home a baseline dunk. Mohammed brought the starters watching from the bench — and Rose — to their feet by blocking a Paul George dunk and dunking over George on another trip.
"We were flat," Thibodeau said. "Those guys got us back into it. We rode them."