There's no tomorrow for the Indiana Pacers if they don't come through tonight.
A humbling 106-87 loss to two-time defending champion Chicago has the Pacers in a do-or-die situation in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.The Bulls can wrap up the series and head to Utah with a chance for their sixth league championship in eight years with a victory at Market Square Arena. If the Pacers survive, Game 7 will be Sunday night in Chicago.
"There's a sense of urgency, but by no means do we look at this like it's our last practice," Indiana point guard Mark Jackson said Thursday. "We fully expect to go back to Chicago."
Jackson, along with his teammates and coaches, reviewed videotape of their futile effort in the first half of Wednesday's game. Indiana trailed 57-32 at halftime after going scoreless for more than five minutes and failing to make a single basket in more than 14 minutes,
"They did what they wanted to do at both ends of the court. When you allow them to do that, they're tough to beat," Jackson said.
"There's no time to think about last night. We have a job at hand, and we have to respond. There's no time to think about that."
The Pacers are undefeated at home in the playoffs this year and beat the Bulls here by two points in Games 3 and 4.
"We looked at the videotape, the first half. They were clearly the more aggressive team," Indiana center Rik Smits said. "I don't know what caused us to come out like that. It (Game 6) could very well be our last game of the season, and we've got to play that way."
Coach Larry Bird has no doubts his team can extend its season.
"My concern is to get these guys to play as hard as they can, just lay it all on the line. If they come out and give me a great effort, and get beat, I can take that," he said.
Bird put the Pacers though a lengthy, physical practice that he described as "harder than normal."
"After the game we had, really they had two days in a row off. It's time to get back with it," Bird said. "We'll play better, we'll play hard. If we set the picks and do the things we're capable of doing, we can win.
"If we come in happy that we beat the Chicago Bulls twice, we're done for the season."
Reggie Miller said the Pacers need to be more aggressive "taking the ball to the hole, starting from the inside out, establishing a post game."
In Chicago, coach Phil Jackson gave his team the day off Thursday, hoping they can maintain their momentum from Game 5.
"We just tried to raise our level of play," said Scottie Pippen, whose hard drive to the basket following the tip set the tone for Chicago's best performance in the playoffs.
"We came out a little more hungry, came out more aggressive, more determined, and it showed on the scoreboard," said Pippen, who had 20 points in 23 minutes.
"It was unexpected dominance," said Jordan, who had 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting. "We didn't expect that. We figured this team (Indiana) would come in and fight hard with a key player (Jalen Rose) being out, and we took it to them."
Bulls vs. Pacers
Chicago 85, Indiana 79
Chicago 104, Indiana 98
Indiana 107, Chicago 105
Indiana 96, Chicago 94
Chicago 106, Indiana 87
Game 6: Friday
Chicago at Indiana, 7 p.m. (NBC)
Game 7: Sunday
Indiana at Chicago, TBA (NBC)*