Riding home from the game and listening to Vogel talk, again, about how the Pacers played hard and deserved to win, but just couldn't quite do it gave me kind of a chuckle.
Look, you simply can't play the moral victory card three games in a row. In general, I'm a believer that if a game comes down to the final possession that it's sort of a coin flip anyway, and luck largely determines the outcome.
Not in this case though.
Tie game, Pacers in a two for one on possessions
That's the scenario at the end of this game. Around 50 seconds left, Pacers ball, you figure if they milk the clock right that they'll get two shots to the Bulls one to end the game.
Should be a fairly large advantage for the Pacers right? There was not a doubt in my mind that the Bulls were going to take this game. Watching it in Indiana, seeing all the hopeful Pacer fans, I felt a bit of sympathy for them. Their hearts were about to be broken.
Rose was lousy, Deng was great? Not so fast
Listening to the post game, it seemed that people think Rose was lousy and Deng played great and stepped up. Rose didn't shoot the ball well, but the way he controlled the game, and the way the entire Bulls offense flowed through the Pacers huge overcommitment to defend him on the perimeter is still what made the difference.
Look, I'm not ripping Deng, who played some great defense at times and had splashes of quality offensive success. However, down the stretch he missed a wide open three to give the Bulls a three point lead, and most of his possessions on offense came while getting the ball without a defender within 5 feet of him because Rose outlet to him.
He did a nice job making decisions and scoring for himself or moving the ball a second time for a better shot, but the vibe listening to sports radio was sort of like Deng picked up the Bulls and carried them while Rose was still really doing all the heavy lifting, but the stat line doesn't show it.
Rose leads the league in hockey assists for sure if they started keeping track of them.
Carlos Boozer can't be healthy can he?
I've never been the biggest fan of Carlos Boozer, but he's not this bad is he? The ankle has to still be giving him trouble right? No lift at all in his game right now, no speed, he seemed to miss point blank shot after point blank shot. He finally managed to get a dunk in the fourth leaving us wondering why that wasn't happening about four or five times early in the game when he was right at the rim.
I've been saying it for awhile, I simply trust Taj Gibson more at the end of games. The offense isn't going to Boozer in the last three minutes right? The Bulls are basically initiating everything through Rose at that point. Given that, they might as well play Gibson and get the benefit of his defense and energy.
Give Boozer some props for a clutch steal near the end of the game though, for all our ripping on him defensively it was great to see him come up with a big defensive play.
Joakim Noah looks like Joakim Noah again
His energy is way up and his impact on the game felt much greater than his stat line to me. He only had 10 boards, but he seemed to be pulling down heavily contested rebounds all the time. He had 10 hard boards rather than the kind where no one is there or he's fighting over a teammate for them.
He did a great job on Hibbert defensively, and his defense on the pick and roll to help out on the ball handler was outstanding. It's great to see Noah getting back on track, because the Bulls are going to need him desperately in the series ahead.
Kyle Korver has been epically clutch and Bogans hits his threes
Korver's 7/8 from the three point line in the playoffs and has a TS% of 86% right now. That's some bad ass offense right there. I hope he can keep it rolling as long as possible, and I still think we need to get him more minutes. The Bulls do not win this game without Kyle Korver's effort in the fourth quarter.
Bogans wasn't spacing the floor at all, the defense completely ignored him when he was off the ball. My friend and I charted it at the game to watch how the Pacers followed him off the ball. The difference tonight was that Bogans killed them for it.
He drilled his open threes, knocking down all three attempts, and that gave the Bulls a huge lift.
Releasing the dobermans
The Bulls defense hasn't always been its best this series, but in the final possession it was simply incredible how much the Bulls smothered the Pacers. They simply had no chance in hell of getting a quality shot off.
That's the difference between a low tier all-star like Danny Granger and an absolute superstar like Derrick Rose though. A guy like Granger you can simply shut down with enough attention with a high degree of consistency.
With Rose, you might be able to stop him, but we've seen him split a double team on the perimeter, then split another double team in the paint immediately afterwards to basically fight through a quadruple team and score.
The Bulls really need a sweep to get some rest
Everyone except for Joakim Noah probably badly needs a rest. Noah probably needs to continue playing as hard as he can for the next two weeks to stay in his high energy mode, maybe while the rest of the team is resting we can lone him to the Atlanta Hawks or something.
However, Derrick Rose has been getting mugged in this series and could use a break for his knees, Luol Deng has been run into the ground, Carlos Boozer looks like he's playing hurt, and Ronnie Brewer still has the thumb injury which will hopefully heal by the next round.
The Bulls, probably like every team, are a bit beat up right now. A sweep combined with a long Hawks/Magic series would probably do them wonders.
Can Frank Vogel get these guys up again? Can he play the same "we deserved to win" card over and over again? Can he get these guys to give their all? There's an old adage that the series hasn't started until someone loses at home, but if you're the road team, and drop the first home game, it's all over.
The Pacers have no hope to win this thing despite having a chance to win each individual game. I expect them to come out and play hard, but I look for the Bulls to come out with killer instinct.
The Bulls have never lost a first round playoff game as the #1 seed. Post that on Derrick's locker, and this one's over.
Final note, Conseco Fieldhouse was a very classy looking stadium, it had a very small town feel to it down to the girl they had mc'ing the game as if it was local event rather than a major production. The view was nice, the parking was easy (and cheap), the staff and fans at conseco were extraordinarily friendly. It was just a great atmosphere to take in game.
Only downside is that the concession and bathroom lines were insane as there weren't nearly enough bathrooms/concession stands in the place due to the size of the stadium. Left Indy thinking it looked like a great place to live and take in a basketball game though.