With a 3:38 left in the game, the Bulls down by 10, Tyler Hansbrough making a mockery Carlos Boozer's defense, things did not look good.
Luol Deng knocked down a couple free throws, Joakim hit a tip, and then Derrick Rose went MVP on the Pacers.
It started with an incredible pass to Noah for a dunk in transition. Noah missed the free throw and the lead was four.
Then Derrick Rose hit an impossible spinning layup in the lane while being knocked around. He followed it up with an incredible floater off a spin move, and an assist to Kyle Korver for the three, and the Pacers never recovered.
Derrick's the MVP, but the defense is co-MVP
Derrick Rose amazed us with his play at the game. The two shots he hit were incredible as well as the passing and overall run of the team. The Bulls made a 10 point deficit a 3 point lead in three minutes, but they couldn't have done that without the defense stepping up.
The Pacers, for god knows what reason, decided they'd stop attacking Carlos Boozer despite scoring on three straight possessions doing exactly that, and Luol Deng did a great job defending Danny Granger down the stretch. The Bulls helped, and the Pacers jumpers finally stopped falling.
So while we're discussing how amazing Rose's finish was, and it was absolutely amazing, the defense at the end of this game allowed him to MVP the Pacers.
Carlos Boozer needs to get his crap together
Boozer's never been someone I've really bought in to. He at least rebounds decently, though his stats are inflated by the way he steals rebounds from his teammates. He came up extremely small on both ends, and I'd still feel better with Taj Gibson closing out games than Carlos Boozer.
Tyler Hansbrough is a good matchup to wake him up for the next series because Hansbrough is like the terminator. He will not stop. He will not quit. He will just keep going and going. A series against someone like that should force him to get his crap together, and this game should have plenty of tape to go back and look at.
I will say this in his defense, Boozer played almost the whole game in foul trouble, and because of that, he was less aggressive than he might have been otherwise. In that sense, I'm not too panicked about his play, especially given that his effort defensively has been much better recently.
Luol Deng played well down the stretch
Maybe no one remembers, but Deng had a huge reputation for coming up small in the fourth quarter. Derrick closed this one out, but Luol Deng scored 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. He knocked down a couple threes, a two, and a few free throws.
The Bulls aren't in position to make a comeback if it weren't for Luol Deng playing well on the offensive end. As noted above, on the defensive end, he did a brilliant job closing out the game defending Danny Granger. Granger had eight in the quarter but it was all in the early portion of it, and Deng wouldn't even let him get the shot off later.
Joakim didn't have the best game, but his offensive rebounding really kept us in it at times
Noah's energy was definitely higher in this game, and while he wasn't having the best game early, he had the huge dunk and tip in the final three and a half minutes as well as back to back blocks when the Pacers were fighting on their last gasp to try and get back in it once the Bulls took the lead.
Noah's starting to look more like the Noah we know and love.
Is this going to be a series?
The natural reaction to this is that, oh my god, we almost lost a game to the Pacers, this series is going to be tough.
Look if Tyler Hansbrough could play this well normally he wouldn't be averaging 11 points a game. If the Pacers could knock down 10/18 threes a night then they'd be one of the best teams in the league.
A lot went right for the Pacers which is why they led most of the game. The Bulls came out fairly flat, Boozer laid a huge egg, and Bulls did not shoot the ball well.
In the end, the Bulls still ground out a victory though. I don't expect this to be a series even though the Pacers showed a ton of heart and a ton of grit. It reminds me of the Bulls playing the Cavaliers last season. Bulls fans hoped that Chicago could shock the world or at least make it a series. Never happened.
Not happening here either.
The thing is, this is the absolute worst possible outcome for the Pacers. They had everything go right for the most part, had a huge lead and choked. The Bulls are going to look at the film and be extraordinarily pissed off at the effort and play.
Quite frankly, the Bulls aren't likely to play this badly again, and the Pacers are going to be in for a tough road ahead of them. Of course, nothing about that is surprising.