INDIANAPOLIS -- Troy Murphy's most important assist didn't show up in the box score.
"We thank Murph for that," Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal said. "We appreciate Murph getting thrown out of the game, getting us going."
The Pacers actually started their climb before the incident.
Indiana coach Jim O'Brien was called for a technical foul with the Pacers trailing 38-24, and Indiana responded with an 11-1 run.
The Bulls were leading 41-36 with 3:51 left in the second quarter when Thomas took exception to a hard foul by Murphy and responded by shoving him in the face. Murphy swung back, and players from both teams intervened before things escalated.
Indiana responded again to take a 53-52 lead at halftime.
"We obviously know that coach is a high-energy-type of guy, and obviously, we feel the way we feel about our teammates," O'Neal said. "Anytime you get a combination of both, guys are going to focus in and try to get a win for both those guys."
O'Neal was glad nothing major happened.
"It was just a lot of chit-chat on the court," he said. "Nobody really wants to be suspended. We know the penalties of fighting and throwing punches. You can take a long vacation if you do that."
The Bulls led 58-56 in the third quarter before the Pacers went on a 15-2 run that included five points from both Jamaal Tinsley and Kareem Rush to give Indiana a 71-60 lead with 7:28 left in the quarter.
The Pacers outscored the Bulls 40-25 in the quarter to lead 93-77 at the end of the period.
Rush benefited from Murphy's early exit. He scored a season-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting. He played 30 minutes, the most since he joined the Pacers this season. He had been averaging 3.2 points per game on 31 percent shooting.
"It has been tough, because I expect a lot out of myself," he said. "It's been kind of frustrating the first 20 games not playing well, but hopefully tonight is a stepping stone for me to continue to push through."
The effort was something the Pacers had been waiting for.
"We know what Kareem can do," O'Neal said. "He's a very talented guy. He's hit us up quite a few times when he was out in Charlotte. We know it's just about opportunity. Tonight, he came and really looked like he had been in the rotation pretty much all season."
Tinsley added 18 points and eight assists for Indiana in his first home game since he was shot at, but unhurt, early Sunday morning in downtown Indianapolis. He was booed by the home fans in pregame introductions for being in his third late-night incident in about 14 months, but they cheered him for most of the game.
Indiana continued its tendency to overcome large deficits. The Pacers rallied from a 15-point second half deficit to beat Orlando 115-109 last Friday night.
Tinsley said the Pacers believe in themselves and O'Brien's system.
"We didn't hang our heads," he said. "We just came out there and competed and played hard."
O'Neal has 18 points, nine rebounds and four blocks and Marquis Daniels added 18 points and seven rebounds for Indiana.
The Bulls entered the game ranked eighth in the league in scoring defense, but they allowed their highest point total of the season.
"We didn't have enough energy to get the stops when we needed them," Gordon said. "I guess we got what we put in tonight."
The Bulls struggled to keep up with the Pacers, who shot 56 percent from the field.
"We were feeling pretty good, but they did a good job of running the floor and pushing the ball," Deng said. "We didn't do a good job of running back on defense, and they made us pay."
Indiana's reserves scored 47 points.
"We just had a hard time matching up," Gordon said. "Our defense has been OK all year, but tonight it wasn't there."
- Indiana C Jeff Foster sat out with back spasms.
- The attendance of 10,381 was the second-lowest total of the season for the Pacers.
- Indiana Fever coach Lin Dunn attended the game after being announced as the new coach earlier in the day.
- Indiana scored 100 or more points for the fifth consecutive game.