Vinny Del Negro doesn't do Scott Skiles-style fist pumps. Tyrus Thomas isn't quite as demonstrative as Tyson Chandler. And Derrick Rose is — how to put this nicely? — a tad quicker than Chris Duhon.
Save for holdovers Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and the injured Luol Deng, there really aren't many similarities between the 2008-09 Bulls and those three straight playoff teams from 2004-07.
Except this: Like those teams, the Bulls are playing their best basketball down the stretch.
Their 112-106 victory over the Pacers in a Saturday matinee at the United Center marked their seventh win in eight games and pushed their home record to 10-1 since the All-Star break.
The Bulls also posted their first four-game winning streak in one day shy of two years, thanks to two late John Salmons three-pointers, a huge Thomas block on Danny Granger and more fourth-quarter wizardry from Rose.
"We're playing our best right now," Thomas said. "But we feel we can play even better."
The Bulls stayed percentage points ahead of Detroit for the seventh seed in the East and, with only one game left against a team with a .500 record or better, anything is possible.
The wild game featured 21 lead changes, 10 ties and swings ranging from a 14-point Pacers lead to a 10-point Bulls advantage.
The latter came courtesy of two free throws from Brad Miller, who had 17 off the bench, with just over 10 minutes to go. But the lead disappeared and then some when Brandon Rush, who had a career-high 29, scored for a 102-99 Pacers lead with 3:22 left.
That's when Salmons, with the shot clock down to six seconds, swished a tough three-pointer over Jarrett Jack.
After the Pacers missed three shots on the next possession, including a point-blank layup by Jeff Foster, Salmons stepped up with another three with one second on the shot clock.
"I was in a pretty good rhythm," said Salmons, who scored 22.
The Pacers, led by Granger's 32 points and Foster's 18 rebounds, trailed 109-106 coming out of a timeout with 32.4 seconds left. Granger drove, but Thomas reacted and rose high for one of his seven blocks, one shy of his career high.
"Just help-side D," Thomas said casually.
Thomas then made two free throws with 25.1 seconds left to push the lead to five. He added 18 points and eight rebounds to his blocks.
With his college coach, John Calipari, in the stands, Rose also flirted with a triple-double, returning to the starting lineup with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Half of those points came in the fourth quarter.
"We did a good job keeping our poise when they made their runs," said Ben Gordon, who scored a team-high 25 points.
Indeed, Rush and Granger combined to score the Pacers' first 22 points as Indiana led by 14 early. But Gordon and Miller scored the first 19 points of the second quarter as the Bulls' 21-4 run righted the ship and prefaced the wild finish.
Speaking of finishes, the 2004-05 Bulls ended 15-4, the 2005-06 Bulls closed 12-2 and the 2006-07 Bulls went 10-3 down the stretch. A repeat appears to be in store.
"Some of the best teams I played on, guys knew their role," Del Negro said. "We're moving in that direction. I like our demeanor and approach."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times