Chicago Bulls Start Pre-Season On a High, Beat Indiana Pacers.

Ash MarshallSenior Analyst IOctober 3, 2009

MINNEAPOLIS - MARCH 20:  Taj Gibson #22 of the USC Trojans smiles on court after USC's 72-55 win against the Boston College Eagles during the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on March 20, 2009 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Having trailed for all of the first half, Chicago rallied to sneak past the clumsy Indiana Pacers 104-95 in their opening game of pre-season.

Yes, it's only the first game of a largely irrelevant series of scrimmages, but the Bulls showed the type of spirit they will need to display over the course of 82 regular season games if they are to build upon their 2008 campaign.

On Friday night both teams saw healthy leads slip away, but Derick Rose and the Bulls came out revitalized in a much-improved second half to give them an ideal start to their new year.

Rookie Taj Gibson led all Bulls' scorers with 19 points and an impressive nine rebounds and Rose added 17 points — including 13 in the second half — to see the Bulls past Danny Granger and the Pacers at the Canseco Fieldhouse.

Granger's offensive production kept the Pacers within touching reach in the second half, but his 27 points, four assists, three steals, three boards and a blocked shot in just 26 minutes of action were not enough to pick up his teammates' otherwise poor performance.

Pacers jumped out to an early 11-6 lead behind the perimeter shooting of Granger, but the Bulls responded immediately and drew level at 14-14 through John Salmons with 3.30 left in the first quarter with a floater after driving into the paint from the top of the key.

With Luol Deng and Tyrus Thomas, who would leave the game in the third quarter with apparent concussion, forcing the shots from the outside, Salmons worked well with guard Derrick Rose to press the inside game.

In the early exchanges, the Pacers would forge ahead only to relinquish their lead with sloppy passes, ill-advised shots and countless unforced turnovers.

The Pacers would lead, turn it over and the Bulls would be handed a way back into it.

Granger carried his hot start into the second quarter, going five-for-nine from the field for 15 points in 16 first half minutes. He did however have four turnovers, limiting his productiveness in an otherwise exciting period.

Deng was the only other Bulls starter to hit double digits in the opening half, with seven of his 11 points coming from a perfect seven-for-seven from the free throw line. The small forward, playing for the first time since the end of February, would see less time after the break though, adding just four more points to his tally.

With the Bulls' lineup struggling to rotate the ball and hit the open man early on, the Pacers should have pulled away by the interval, but only Jones really stepped up to help his backcourt team mate, racking up nine points alongside a couple of fouls.

The Bulls ended the first half with just three total assists, but 18 combined Pacers fouls enabled the Bulls to take 24 trips to the line and remain in the game.

The Pacers' failure to establish a bigger lead came back to hurt them immediately at the start of the third quarter when the Bulls came out of the dressing room up and running, outscoring the Pacers 14-6 in the first three minutes of the half.

Rose collected a quick five, with Salmon adding four and Thomas adding a jumper and a foul shot.

It would be the Bulls' first lead of the game and they would stretch their advantage to as many as 14 by the end of the quarter as Byars nailed a mid-range jumper from the right side on a nice feed from Hunter.

The Pacers reduced the arrears to ten after Richard sent Hibbert to the line and Head tipped a rebound back to make it 71-61 after McRoberts had missed a lay-up in transition from Hunter's missed three-point attempt.

While turnovers continued to plague the Pacers, the Bulls by contrast gave the ball away just 13 times.

The Pacers were keen to cut into the 13-point deficit as soon as possible at the start of the fourth quarter.

Granger hit a three to take his tally for the day to 20 and McRoberts capitalized on a bad Hunter pass to drive down the left have side of the key for an easy finger roll.

Byars finally made the Bulls' first three pointer to beat the buzzer and end a run of six unanswered points, but James Johnson got caught with a rookie foul — his fifth of the afternoon — to send Granger straight back to the line.

Six more unanswered points and a pair of Rose turnovers saw the Pacers move to within two points with nine minutes remaining. It was as close as the Pacers would come though, despite McRoberts emphasizing the Pacers' revitalized comeback momentarily with an emphatic one-handed flush as Granger ran the floor on a two-on-one break.

After seeing their lead slashed to a single basket however, Salmons, Gibson and Rose scored half a dozen of their own to open up a bit of breathing room and an eight-point lead.

Gibson, a first-round draft pick and defensive player of the year, looked sharp for the Bulls at both ends of the court and with point guard Rose, the one-two punch gave the Bulls a lead they would not relinquish.

Other Bulls Rookie James Johnson fouled out with four points, one block, one steal and two assists.

The Bulls went on to win by nine, with their 34-point third quarter the turning point in a contest the Pacers had controlled up until that point.