What do you call an offensive collapse of the magnitude that the Chicago Bulls have displayed against the Pacers? A slump? Well, looking at the numbers across the board it's hard to categorize the implosion of every key players numbers at the same time as a slump. Look at regular season vs. playoffs.
Regular Season Playoffs
Deng: 17ppg .460 17pg .352
Rose: 25ppg .445 28pg .352
Boozer: 17pg .510 12pg .375
Taj: 7ppg .466 2ppg .385
Noah: 11ppg .525 11pg .439
Korver 8ppg .434 10pg .560
As a team the Bulls field goal percentage has gone from a vibrant .462 to an anemic .398. Seriosuly, this would be a collapse regardless, but from the top seeded team in the Eastern Conference it's nothing less then an epic implosion. So where do we go from here?
"Well, Surprise, surprise!"
No, it's not Gomer Pyle at the door, but It's doubtful he or anyone else would have considered the Indiana Pacers as the 12th best defense in the league. Not that top 12 is screamingly good anyhow. But yes the same Pacers who allow 101ppg are also rated 12th in defensive rating(points allowed per 100 possessions) among 30 NBA teams. Yet even viewed in this light you're talking paint defenders like Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough, and Mike Dunleavy. Only Hibbert averages above 1 block a game, and steals are knowehre to be found. Yet Paul George, Dahntay Jones, and Darren Collison all have solid steals per minutes, and all can defend capably. And as a team they have played with nothing but fire and grit since the opening tipoff of Game 1. And that even before the massive morale and psychological boost of stopping Derrick Rose. Even smacking both he and Deng, and apparently Dahntay Jones telling Derrick to "shut up(bitch)!" after a complaint on a hard foul.
No, you'd have to switch uniforms to find the expected defensive agressor and intimidator going into this series. But that's just not simply been the case. And while the Bulls have held the Pacers scoring and team field goal percentage down as well, at critical times/runs they've gotten burned by Collison, Hibbert, Foster, and yes Tyler Hansbrough.
Conversely if the defenses have both been effective then how can we single out the Bulls offense for seemingly being behind/bested most of the series? Well most playoff teams tend to somewhat go as their leader goes. True? Those that win/advance I mean.
Indiana's stud(leading scorer and one true scoring/possible all-star) Danny Granger is averaging 22ppg on .486 FG%. Now that's a rock of Gibraltar you can stand on. While Derrick limps into game 5 as a 17% high volume three shooter with an overall FG% of .352. Compared to Indy's Granger the sand is slipping through our feet you'd have to say. And even defensively Derrick has gotten roasted on pick and rolls/seemingly reverted back to his old self guarding Collison. Of course that discounts Games 1 and 2 when Derrick pretty much excelled at an MVP level, and saved those two home games as mostly a one man show. Granted Korver and Deng had their moments, but still.
We're due to have a good game.
Does this really seem like a situation where the down team is just going to come in, and turn it on or finally have a "good game?" With the momentum and confidence Indiana has built, and their big time success at slowing down Derrick? Actually, yes, it is. History shows us that big time underdogs more often then not simply run out of gas. The No.1 team at some point has to play up to it's potential at least somewhat, and meanwhile the bottom seed begins to show their true colors beyond the nothing to lose/giant killer temporary euphoria. And everything falls apart. Plus you're likely to have home court energy to pounce upon the cracks in the opponents facade..
But don't count on a reemerging Bulls offense happening by itself. Though many die hards now have finally found fault with Thib's offensive schemes it doesn't mean he or his staff is incapable of making adjustments as their talents indicated all year they could. I think Doug suggested the same lineup/principle I thought was at least worth a try, and that's our best group of exploiters/scorers on the court with Derrick for these extended double teams. C.J.(maybe even some at point) with Derrick, Kyle, Deng, and Joakim. Every one of these guys can score including C.J. who is a good driver. Also Bogans hate aside, the dude is shooting .308 on 3ppg. I don't care if he's hitting a couple of threes that production for 18.8 mpg is killing you. Ronnie before the thumb injury was playing way above Keith, and if he's hampered then we know 30 points C.J. can drive, score or get to the line plus he's a much better assist guy then Keith. Truly, I'm not Keith hating so much as seeing a dire need for more production right now. And while C.J.'s number have been no better at 7.5 minutes a game you've got to give a double digit scorer and near 50% shooter the last two years a chance. And defensively if Derrick can't guard Collison(as he was not doing such a hot job before the ankle sprain) then put C.J. or another guard on him, and let Derrick hang with the relatively ineffective Price or even George who doesn't drive much in the half court, and double if he does.
Psychologically I just don't think you can limp out of this game with a W, and expect everything to be fine in the next series. The Bulls have been shut down and somewhat beat down by their first round playoff rivals. I don't care if this would have been Indiana or Philly; that's not the point. The point is this is the team that has done it to you. And somehow as the No.1 seed and 62 game winner that kind of embarassment cuts a deeper mark then with a medium expectations or lower seeded team. There's no doubt the mockery and bruised egos take a toll in that situation. It's like the class weightlifiting champ getting beat up by the school weakling. Thibs surely needs some different looks for Derrick besides him predominantly holding the ball, and ending up near the half court line getting smothered or turning the ball over. But beyond Thib's adjustments the players themselves have to win back their respect, and attack their preeening rivals. You didn't put the blood, sweat, and tears into 62 wins to have them dirtied and sullied by the likes of Hansbrough, Foster, and Collison. Joakim, Lu, Kyle etc. etc. your life is calling. If ever there was a time to show what you're made of this is it.