In Series Clincher, Bulls and Pacers are Who We Thought They Were

In Series Clincher, Bulls and Pacers are Who We Thought They Were

The Bulls wrapped up their first round playoff series against the Pacers in Game 5 with a dominant 116-89 spanking.

The Bulls and Pacers played four tough games, in which the Bulls won three, but the Game 5 clincher was the NBA-best 62-win team dominating the 37-winner. After the Bulls opened with a 14-2 run at the United Center on Tuesday night, they never turned back and routed the Pacers 116-89.

pacers gone fishing.jpg

h/t: sin

Tom Thibodeau is one series away from another 'not since the Jordan Era' benchmark with being one round away from the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls will face the winner of the Magic-Hawks series in the second round; the Hawks currently lead 3-2 after Tuesday night's 101-76 Magic rout.
Say the Bulls were due or whatever, but Game 5 was the flow and power balance that should've shaped the entire series. Kelly Dwyer wrote (Ball Don't Lie):

The turnaround was startling, as Chicago was afforded good looks at the hoop for what seemed like the first time in weeks. Probably because it was the first time in weeks -- Chicago's offensive slump carried over from the regular season, and Indiana's long-armed, aggressive defense took advantage to the tune of four close, catty games to begin what was supposed to be a coronation of sorts for the Bulls.
Indiana's traps weren't as potent in Game 5, though, the long arms didn't reach as far. Chicago's defense stayed on point, which allowed the Bulls to rush out for fast break opportunities and pile up easy buckets. Indiana's poor communication in transition also added to the mess, as Chicago built a 22-11 lead just midway through the first quarter. The Pacers rallied, but never threatened. After four games of just about matching everything Chicago did, Indiana just couldn't keep up.
In the fast 93.2-possession game, the Bulls shot the Pacers out of the gym. They shot 40-for-83 (.482 FG%) from the floor and an astronomical 14-for-31(.452 3P%) -- 11-for-22 in the second half -- for a dong-whipping .566 eFG% to post an offensive rating of 124.4 The defense showed the Pacers who both teams are, holding them to abysmal rates -- .392 FG% and a .439 eFG% for a 94.4 offensive rating.
The Bulls had a 54-46 lead at the half and the Pacers cut that lead to four mid-way through the third quarter. The Bulls responded with a 23-8 run over six minutes to take a 84-65 lead into the fourth quarter. "The Pacers made seven turnovers and just seven field goals in the third quarter, when they were outscored 30-19," Kent McDill reported (NBA.com).

The Bench Mob put together a 16-4 run in the middle of the fourth to end the possibility of any unnecessary drama -- except for Josh McRoberts' drama, when dude went and done loss his damn mine:

Derrick Rose sprained his ankle in Game 4, left Indianapolis in a walking boot, watched Monday and Tuesday's practice from the sidelines, but persevered through excruciating p -- yeah, the ankle is OK:

Rose scored a game-high 25 points on 8-for-17 shooting, 3-for-8 on 3-pointers, and 6-for-7 on FTs to go with six assists, two steals, two blocks, and only two turnovers in only 29:48. He was a defensive playmaker, but otherwise was not needed on defense.
The key the Bulls playoffs success is Luol Deng (24 points on 7-for-14, 3-for-5 on 3s, 7-for-8 on FTs, six rebounds, seven assists, three steals) being the guy who can create his own shot -- with and without the ball -- while getting to the FT line for easy points and the chance to get himself and his teammates a breather. With the ball in his hands, he's one of the smartest people on the floor and made plays to show for it.
Joakim Noah broke down the walls early with 10 points with 6-for-7 on FTs, three rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in the first quarter and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, and four blocks in 31:33. Keith Bogans was a sniper with 15 points, hitting 5-of-7 3-pointers. The Bench Mob -- led by Taj Gibson (10 points on 5-for-8, seven rebounds in 30:27) and Kyle Korver (13 points on 5-for-14, 2-for-7 on 3s, two assists in 22:00 -- scored 36 points to go with 15 rebounds.
Carlos Boozer was extremely limited with four fouls and was on the bench for the final 18 minutes of the game. He said he "felt something pop" in the second quarter and was diagnosed with turf toe after the game (K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune).
  • Thibs talked about piecing together what went well in the first four games to finally handle Indy in a decisive manner. He credited Deng's great all-around game, Noah's energy, the importance of "playing with a lead," getting Boozer going earlier and more often.

    When of Boozer not finishing well at the basket or being aggressive to get there, Thibs responded: "I think one things leads to the other. Once you pick up fouls, you're trying to avoid fouls. We gotta' get him back to being who he is -- which is aggressive, attacking, scoring the ball, rebounding the ball. His foul trouble's really holding him back right now."

  • "We came out with a lot of fire and intensity; it's something we haven't done," Deng said after the game. He credited Indy for being more aggressive in the first four games of the series. He discussed his "aggressive" defense and that the physicality of the game was just "how the game went."
  • After the game, Danny Granger had some heated words for Deng as the two were leaving the court. Granger took the time to call Noah a dirty player (Lindsey Willhite, Daily Herald). To which Deng responded: "Everyone knows in the league Jo is not dirty at all. He played with a lot of energy. He got the crowd into it. He got us into it. Playing with Jo all these years, there's not one bone on him that's dirty. It's just a guy that is playing with a lot of intensity. That's how Jo gets. He gets on guys in practice. He gets on guys in practice. He's just excited."
  • "When we get a lot of assists, we shoot the ball well," Deng said of the team's offensive burst. 27 of the Bulls' 40 FGs being assisted. They were 47-9 in the regular season when they hit 20 assists; 23-4 when they hit 25. 
  • Taj broke through with a monster two-way game. He attacked the basket, the glass, and the ball. He shifted to help with quick, active feet, and displayed that high basketball I.Q. that is amazing when it's on display. If Booz and Jo can stay on the floor, the rotation down low can shrink to the three and the Bulls will be unstoppable with Omer Asik and Kurt Thomas always fresh for lightning-thunder injections when necessary.
  • Noah had his grandfather there from Cameroon to see him play in the NBA for the first time and it pumped him up. The last time was in college and he had a huge game. Tuesday was the first time since his ankle injury that we saw Jo's full intensity for a full game. That energy and screaming and wildness is what makes a guy everyone but his teammates and team's fans hate him, but Noah is incapable of playing well without pushing his body past that 100% threshold. He almost has to lose control of his emotions and let them guide his play because he is relatively overmatched or equally matched at many times.

    Dan Bernstein wrote (CBS Chicago):

    It wouldn't bother me so much if Noah were not paid handsomely to do just what he did last night. He is the ultimate "energy player," making up for a lack of bulk and scoring ability by rebounding, running the floor, disrupting with his length and athleticism and moving the ball.

    [...]

    The Bulls are a 62-win team - a top seed with title hopes, no longer a gritty upstart trying to make a name for themselves against the big boys. This is the time of the year for everyone on the team to do what each is paid to do (and yes, I'm looking at you too, Carlos).

    Another term for Noah's "inspired" first quarter of action, in a first round playoff game, at home, against inferior competition?

    His damn job.

  • On producing, Noah said after the game: "It doesn't have to be pretty. It doesn't have to be cute. Just find a way to win."
  • On Taj's performance, Noah said: "You gotta' give a lot of credit to my main man, Taji-Wu. Taji-Wu was huge tonight. He just came in -- Carlos got in foul trouble -- and Taj came in and really changed the game with his energy. That's what it's all about -- guys steppin' up, guys bein' ready. Taj has been through a lot this year and you have to respect that he came in and changed the game tonight with his rebounding, his lucky-assed shot off the glass, his blocked shot. It was great to have him come in and play that way."

    On Bogans shooting the lights out: "We know what he brings to the table. He brings a lot of positives: his defensive intensity; his leadership in the locker room; and a really funny, good dude to have around. Always positive. And for him to play the way he played was huge for us."

  • "I wasn't dirtier than anyone else," Noah said of Granger calling him a dirty player. "This is a battle down there. I'm not trying to hurt nobody. They played tough. Granger played tough. i understand it's emotional, there's a lot going on. It's tough. Their season's over."

    He gave Indy a ton of credit, predicting they'll be tough "for a long time." There was a lot of dirty play down low, but Jo appreciates the toughness and praised their coach and frontcourt play, adding the Granger's "one of the best scorers in the NBA."

  • Rose's ankle is fine after receiving treatment all day, he said after the game.
  • On the blowout, Rose said: "It feel goods; we played defense. We made everything tough for them, allowed ball pressure. We kept our pace up, playing a more up-tempo game. Guys got to their spots quicker."

    He credited Bogans and Korver's shooting and Noah's energy toward the aggressiveness and execution of the team. Rose added that he wasn't going to be gun-shy when the defense sagged off of him.

    On Thibs putting him back in the game with four fouls in the third quarter: "I was happy. i told him I wasn't gonna' foul anymore, but they called one more on me. I'm grateful my teammates were able to pull out the game.... Learn from [the foul trouble] and be smarter with my fouls. No ghost fouls."

  • The rebounding isn't where it should be. A lot of that was the Pacers' reckless inside strategy on both where their bigs were all treated as big bodies with six fouls to give, but the Bulls gave up 13 offensive rebounds at a way-too-high 30.2% rate for Indy. It was the third straight game where Indy posted ORB% over 30% with 43 total and only a -1 on the boards overall. The Bulls don't need to simply out-rebound opponents to contend for a championship, but dominate the glass on both ends. It's makes the forced misses pay off and compensates for getting stifled by strong defense.
  • Yelena Noah:

    yelena pacers game.jpg

    h/t: sin

    yelena2.jpg

    yelena3.jpg

    Shameless, I know.

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Comments

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  • Good read! I just have one question. Did you have permission to use my Gone Fishin pic? Just kidding, I did make it though :) (bulls6pack)

  • In reply to bulls6pack:

    HA! Sorry about that, Kyle. MovableType can be difficult with captions. I'll fix the code.

    EDIT: It did show up. I linked to "sin" posting it as a hat tip, not crediting him for making it.

  • hope your buddy lebron kicks the bullsif they meet. funny you backed lebron and bashed cleveland. if the bulls play the heat, who's side you taking then? lebron or the bulls. either way you lose.
    let's see your back step.
    i doubt that to many people will read this. you only have one other comment.
    must not be to popular in chicago.

  • In reply to sontysucks:

    What the fuck are you talking about? How does accepting the fact that LeBron's the best player in the NBA and not liking Cleveland create a dilemma in rooting for the Bulls in a potential Bulls-Heat series?

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