Pacers Played Their Best and That Wasn't Better Than the Bulls' Bad in Playoff Opener

Pacers Played Their Best and That Wasn't Better Than the Bulls' Bad in Playoff Opener

The Bulls took the playoff series opener over the Pacers 104-99, taking a 1-0 lead in the seven-game series.

The Bulls never had control of the game in the first 44 minutes of the contest, but the Pacers at their best still wasn't good enough to build an adequate cushion for themselves to steal a win in Chicago to open the seven-game series. A late rally of stops on one end and aggressive heroics from the Bulls' superstar point guard ended as a 104-99 Bulls win.

"Trailing 98-88 in the final period, the Bulls showed the resolve that carried them to a league-best 62-20 record, closing with a 16-1 run over the final 3:38," Andrew Seligman reported (AP via Yahoo!):

There was no moral victory in the Pacers commanding a large portion of the first game in one this season's toughest houses to win as a visitor. The fact is that about 44:12 into the series, they were confronted with the harsh, depression self-actualization that their absolute best just cannot be good enough against an opponent that will beat them three more times before they go months without playing an NBA game.
Seligman reported:
For the Pacers, the loss was tough to accept. They controlled most of the game, but couldn't put it away.
They'd make little runs, Chicago would come back, and the Pacers would pull ahead again. With Rose staring at them, Danny Granger never felt safe.
"With Derrick Rose on the other team? No," Granger said. "With Derrick Rose on the other team, no. It's like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend. Everytime you tell her you don't want to talk to her, she'll show up at your door again."
[...]
For the Pacers, the loss was tough to accept. They controlled most of the game, but couldn't put it away.
They'd make little runs, Chicago would come back, and the Pacers would pull ahead again. With Rose staring at them, Danny Granger never felt safe.
"With Derrick Rose on the other team? No," Granger said. "With Derrick Rose on the other team, no. It's like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend. Everytime you tell her you don't want to talk to her, she'll show up at your door again."
it was a combination of the whole team not rotating well, getting second chance points, or closing out on shooters early that created the need for a comeback that shouldn't have been needed. That said, there is a reasonable boost in a team's smug factor when you can beat a team playing their best while not playing very well at all.
Tom Thibodeau was unhappy with the Bulls taking 20 3-pointers -- though they took 35 of their 82 shots at the rim -- and the defense for the majority of the game. "I think [the Pacers] pretty much got whatever they wanted to with the ball," Thibs said after the game. "We've gotta' contain penetration. Our defensive transition has to be a lot better. We have to get back to their shooters a lot better. We have to be a lot more disciplined. We gotta' follow the plan.

"One effort's not enough against these guys. They're a terrific offensive team. They have a lot of weapons. They spread you out. They share the ball. They're hard to guard. In your mind, you have to be ready to make two, three, four efforts on the same play. And when they raise to shoot, you gotta' challenge; and then, you gotta' finish your defense."

Indy hit 10-of-18 treys -- notably Granger's 4-for-8 contributing to his team-high 24 points. "You can't close short," Thibs said to that. "We have to contain the ball better. We have to protect the paint. And then, from there, we have to close out. You have to close hard at the line. We didn't do that. They had too much airspace and they made."
  • Rose was unstoppable. He bricked all nine 3-point attempts -- including two three-quarter-court buzzer-beating attempts -- but finished with a highly efficient 39 points on 10-for-23 shooting because he never quit attacking the bodies Frank Vogel stationed in the paint. Rose didn't only go 6-for-8 a the rim and 2-for-4 from close range, but an astounding 19-for-21 at the FT line, proving there was no answer to question: how do you stop D-Rose?

    Dare I say a phrase not since used in this city with any sport since Michael Jordan? You know, 'you can only hope to contain him' with the 22-year-old MVP favorite?

    He added six assists and only three turnovers in 39 minutes. The quantity of turnovers are deceiving, as his usage rate was an all-consuming 48%, so his turnover rate was a minuscule 7.3% on the day. Though he had problems with the very-talented-but-the-shots-he-hit-normally-misses Darren Collison, he added three blocks to the day. This one plus the block on the other end was something magical:

    In case, you didn't catch in the earlier three videos, Rose powering through large men to make this crazy shot in the paint for the And-1 eased any worry for me in the fourth quarter. I was pretty convinced that Indy had no chance of winning the game at this point:

  • The Bulls smelled blood in the water, but didn't unleash the merciless beast. I don't feel the team was complacent, so it isn't cause for concern. If anything, the bad start to the game -- production-wise -- was related to the NBA scheduling the game at a time when NBA player normally naps for a night game and the two days of not being on the court.

    Rose made it clear that beating the hell out of Indy was their intention from the start: "If anything, we wanted a blowout game," he said after the game. "We definitely didn't want a like this in our first game. We wanted to come out, just play hard, play hard put them way after we got the lead" 

  • Luol Deng led the other four Bulls to score in double figures with 18 points on 7-for-13 -- 2-for-4 on 3s -- to go with 10 rebounds, two assists, and a steal in 41:11. Deng, Rose, Joakim Noah (10 points, 11 rebounds -- eight offensive -- with three blocks in 30:43) minutes), and Kurt Thomas (six points, four rebounds, two assists in 24:01) all worked as an amazing defensive unit in the final minutes to be the keys to their late-game comeback.

    I've written over and over again that the Bulls are group of extremely nice guys who play very nasty-physical and that showed a bit after a whistle with Deng's leadership. The Pacers were fouling Rose very hard and in the fourth quarter, Deng had enough of it. He got T'd up for going after Hansbrough, but it really did get the crowd heated up after there was a sense of disinterest in the Bulls bad play throughout the game:

    Deng said after the game: "I think it's part of their game plan when Derrick drives to instead of just foul him to really whack him. It happened a couple of times in the first half and the last time we played them in Indiana (in March). It was just my reaction. I felt at that time in the game, they had the lead and were getting whatever they wanted basically. It just happened. Emotionally, I just stepped up."

  • Offensive rebounding held the game together. Even when the Bulls began throwing adequate hands in faces, the Pacers kept hitting shots. Granger wasn't the only one, as Tyler Hansbrough nailed 7-of-10 long twos to score 22 points. The Pacers vowed to be physical and crash the boards hard. They did and it was about as well as they could, scoring 24 second chance points on 13 offensive boards at a 31.7% rate.

    The Pacers' rebounding didn't play out that way on the defensive end, where the Bulls dominated for 44 second chance points on 21 offensive boards at a dominant 50% rate. Their 44% shooting from the field was largely neutralized by the by those second chance points for a 115.6 offensive rating in the 90-possession game.

  • Not taking care of the basketball gave too many easy buckets to Indy. Indy was making the difficult buckets throughout the second half, but scored 16 points off of nine Bulls turnovers in the first that largely contributed to their 55-51 halftime lead. It was the early turnovers that held back a potential 10-15-point domination the Bulls could build upon to create a blowout in the third quarter and rest starters.
  • Carlos Boozer was a Foul Machine, but not actually aggressive with the ball. Limited to 26:12, he only scored 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting. He grabbed six rebounds -- five defensive at a 22.5% rate -- but grabbed zero on the bench. Going 1-for-5 at the rim is unacceptable for a low-post ninja like him with 35.1% usage rate on the game.
  • Korver left buckets on the floor. He scored 13 on 4-for-7, nailing all four treys, but passed up too many good looks to pass to people is lesser-percentage positions to score. The Bulls can't afford him being gun-shy.
  • Roy Hibbert sucks. I don't care what anyone says. He sucks. He's at least a year or two away from being significant. It's like a poor man's LaMarcus Aldridge career arch. That said, Noah continued his pattern of the opponent's big making him look silly early in the game.

    "The Pacers wasted no time taking advantage of Roy Hibbert and his three-inch height advantage over Joakim Noah in the middle," Paul Ladewski reported (NBA.com). "The center responded with eight points and five rebounds (four offensive) in the first quarter, but inexplicably he was a non-factor the rest of the game."

  • In case you didn't know the importance of taking Game 1: "At the start of the day, the team that drew first blood in a best-of-seven series advanced to the next round 78 percent of the time (320 victories, 408 series)," Ladewski added.
  • In case you also didn't know, Thibs does a great Mick Jagger impression:
    thibs jagger.jpg
Game 2 is Monday night at the United Center and at the obscene time of 8:30 p.m. before they go to Indy for Thursday night's Game 3. Every game of the series will be telecast on CSN Chicago and simulcast nationally.
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