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The Baltimore Sun

Bulls still have plenty of things to fine-tune

For one third-quarter stretch during Friday night's 102-95 loss to the Pacers at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Vinny Del Negro's vision coalesced.

Players, most notably Thabo Sefolosha, guarded passing lanes and forced turnovers. Lanes were filled. Correct fast-break decisions were made. Easy baskets were scored.

Now, of course, the trick is to sustain such a style consistently, especially with Del Negro disclosing for the first time he wants to have his regular season rotation set by the "fourth or fifth" exhibition game.

"That's my target," Del Negro said. "But with all the injuries we've had, it has been hard to get some type of flow. We also haven't had a lot of practice time the past couple days, which we need.

"These games are for the guys to get a feel for each other and see what's going to work and not work."

Here's what's not working: The half-court offense and, more often than not, the defense.

One night after kicking the ball away 24 times against the Mavericks, the Bulls committed 19 turnovers. Larry Hughes and Derrick Rose had four apiece. At least Rose upgraded his self-analysis from "terrible" to "decent."

"I still had too many turnovers and we didn't win," Rose said. "But I felt more comfortable."

Rose finished with 13 points and six assists in 31 minutes.

Tyrus Thomas tallied 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead six Bulls in double figures.

"At times he was hesitant on the pick-and-roll," Del Negro said. "We'll keep working with him."

The Bulls pulled to within 95-92 on Rose's three-pointer with 49 seconds left. But T.J. Ford beat Rose at the other end and scored while getting fouled by Sefolosha, finishing the three-point play to make it 98-92 with 31.7 seconds left.

Rose then missed a three-pointer and the Bulls' intentional fouling began.

"We didn't come out at the beginning with enough fight," Del Negro said. "But in the third quarter, we got after it, especially defensively. We had a competitive edge and a mind-set. It just comes down to focus and energy."

The Bulls played without Ben Gordon, Drew Gooden and Joakim Noah.

Luol Deng needed five stitches to close a cut under his right eye, suffered when teammate Aaron Gray unintentionally elbowed him on a rebound.

Del Negro's postgame words were equally pointed.

"He told us we need to play with more fire from the beginning," Sefolosha said. "You saw how we played in the third quarter. That's the intensity we need from the start. We need to play like we did in that third quarter with more consistency."

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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