Wednesday night's Bulls-Indiana Pacers game was both a rematch of a hard-fought first-round playoff series from last season and what some see as a preview of another collision in this season's playoffs.
The players themselves seemed to treat the game as if the playoffs already were here.
In a back-and-forth contest in which each team seemed to have a grip on the game at one point or another, the Pacers walked away with a well-deserved 95-90 win.
If this indeed is a playoff preview, what exactly did we learn?
Indiana has improved
This isn't just Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and a bunch of scrubs anymore. With the addition of George Hill, David West and the development of Paul George, the Pacers are deeper, more dangerous and better defensively.
Rip still has gas left in the tank
The Bulls' only significant offseason pickup, Richard Hamilton can still play the game. He scored 17 points and always seems to know exactly where everybody is and where they're going on the court. He'll help ease the scoring load.
The Bulls miss Deng
In the fourth quarter, especially, it was clear the Bulls needed someone besides Derrick Rose to score. Sure, Ronnie Brewer started strong, but he was not a factor in the fourth. Plus, Deng's in-your-jersey defense is not easily replicated.
Butler's not ready
Now we know why Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau hasn't been playing much. Butler looked lost during most of his 6+ minutes on the court. He turned the ball over, committed silly fouls and was burned defensively.
Boozer's D stinks
Thibodeau opted to go with Brian Scalabrine in the final minute with the Bulls down two instead of leave Carlos Boozer in the game to defend the Pacers. Message sent?