Updated: November 7, 2013 11:00AM
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers’ dominance against the Bulls last season came with an asterisk: no Derrick Rose.
The Pacers’ 97-80 victory Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse came with an exclamation point.
A few Bulls were even questioning their own toughness afterward.
“We got to get our edge back,’’ center Joakim Noah said. “They were in the fight, and we weren’t there.
“They wanted it more than us. They got to every loose ball, every rebound, just took it away. Disappointing.’’
Disappointing is one word to describe the Bulls’ 1-3 start.
Add frustrating, surprising and even soft.
These Bulls aren’t supposed to blow leads in the fourth quarter. They’ve done it in back-to-back games. Tom Thibodeau-coached teams are supposed to lock the opposition down defensively.
And, maybe most alarming, point guard Derrick Rose is supposed to close teams out. He spent the end of the third quarter and almost the first six minutes of the fourth on the bench because the second unit was getting it done.
When the game started slipping away after Luis Scola hit a jumper to give the Pacers a 72-69 lead, Thibodeau went back to Rose in search of a spark. The fizzle came quickly.
Less than a minute later, Lance Stephenson’s three-pointer put the Pacers ahead 77-69, and that was with all five starters back in the game.
By the time the horn blared, the Bulls were outscored 34-18 in the fourth quarter. Load up the bus and enjoy the quick flight home.
“We’re still the same team we’ve always been,’’ shooting guard Jimmy Butler said. “We just need to be the aggressor on both ends of the floor. We’ve just got to guard. I feel like we’re letting our offense dictate our defense, instead of the other way around.’’
Searching for answers was a common theme after the loss, even for Rose. It’s not so much that he started off 5-for-9 from the field before going 1-for-6 in the second half or that he’s shooting 31 percent (21-for-67) because Rose is still under the assumption that his shot will come.
But Rose has to figure out how to become a playmaker again. After missing all of last season, Rose is being greeted with double teams and athletic bigs guarding him late in games. Four more turnovers and only two assists won’t cut it.
“I’ve been getting double-teamed for a couple of years now,’’ Rose said. “I’ve just got to make the game simple. When they come to double-team, I have to make the easiest play possible. I’m overthinking it sometimes, and that’s leading to turnovers.’’
The Pacers (5-0) have won four of the last five meetings against the Bulls.
‘‘Getting sick of losing,’’ Noah said. ‘‘It’s everybody. Everybody has to come in with the right mind-set.
‘‘We fought for three quarters, and they took it from us in the fourth.’’