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NBA Playoffs: Bulls win yet another nail-biter

Apr 21, 2011, 10:12 PM EDT

Bulls Pacers Basketball

It’s hard not to feel for the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers came into the series as heavy underdogs, each one of their games against the mighty Chicago Bulls has come down to the last few possessions, and they still find themselves on the verge of being swept after another heartbreaking loss.

The Pacers needed to do two things in order to turn the series around — make shots and contain Derrick Rose. To their credit, they were able to do the latter extremely well. The Pacers trapped Rose aggressively and used a number of larger defenders on him, and were able to wall off the paint against him. They ended up forcing Rose into five turnovers and a 4-18 shooting night, and only one of Rose’s field goals came from inside of 19 feet.

The Bulls weren’t able to get much offense outside of Rose, either. Carlos Boozer had another terrible game, managing only four points on 2-1o shooting from the field, and Luol Deng required 19 shots to get his 21 points. If it wasn’t for the dead-eye shooting of three-point specialists Keith Bogans and Kyle Korver, who went 5-6 from beyond the arc, the Bulls would have been completely dead in the water offensively in Game 3.

Unfortunately for the Pacers, they completely failed to generate any offense of their own against the league’s top defense. The only thing that really worked offensively for the Pacers was Danny Granger shooting contested two-point jumpers, both in the half-court and in transition, and that is not a formula for sustainable offensive success. Darren Collison and A.J. Price dribbled aimlessly and tossed up shots. Roy Hibbert struggled to get comfortable in the post. The 18-foot jumper Tyler Hansborough had in Game 1 has completely abandoned him. Paul George struggled. Dahntay Jones was able to get to the hoop a few times, but that was about all the Pacers were able to muster on offense.

With the game tied and 55 seconds left to play, the Pacers called a time out to set up a play, but Darren Collison ignored what appeared to be an open Danny Granger and tried a tough floater in the lane, which he missed. On the ensuing Bulls possession, Derrick Rose let the clock run all the way down to five before exploding to the basket and making a left-handed layup over three Pacer defenders to put the Bulls up by two. It was Rose’s first layup of the game. Before Rose’s layup, Kyle Korver was instrumental for Chicago — he scored or assisted on 12 straight Chicago points during one stretch in the fourth-quarter, and kept a key offensive rebound alive that eventually turned into a pair of Rose free throws with 2:31 remaining.

After Rose’s layup, Danny Granger’s contested three missed on the Pacers’ final possession, and the Pacers are now in a 3-0 hole. Indiana should be proud of their effort in all three losses, and clearly has something to build on for next season if they don’t pull of a miracle and come back, but ultimately they didn’t have enough offensive firepower to crack Chicago’s dominant defense.

Chicago has some things to worry about, but ultimately a win is a win in the playoffs, and Chicago has taken three in a row. The Pacers have shown that the Bulls’ offense can be slowed to a crawl if you can trap Derrick Rose effectively and force the rest of the Bulls to beat you, but the next team that Chicago faces may not be able to trap Rose nearly as well as the Pacers have, and there’s a very good chance Carlos Boozer will be a lot more effective than he has been against the Pacers. The Bulls have shown some cracks in their armor, but they’ve yet to give up a game. Until somebody actually beats them, they shouldn’t be taken any less seriously than they were at the end of the regular season.

  1. philtration - Apr 21, 2011 at 10:18 PM

    The officials have let this get out of control.
    How do you let guys just slam players in the head over and over and not call a flagrant?

    Nothing entertaining about cheap shots and thug ball.

  2. Gordon - Apr 21, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    Hey Boozer, feel free to show up for one of these games. Superman can’t keep bailing your ass out!

  3. metalhead65 - Apr 22, 2011 at 12:58 AM

    you mean there are refs in the series? I mean I know there are, it would just be nice if they would call an even game and not call a foul every time rose goes down the lane. I am waiting for them to call a foul on the cheerleaders when dunks on a breakaway. and have they taken traveling out of the rulebook alltogether? I know I am old and all but I thought once you left your feet you either had to pass it or shoot it. now they just come down after doing niether and start dribbling again or take 2 more steps going to the hoop.there was a play where deng got caught in the air came back down then bulled his way in to get a call against the pacers naturaly. wonder if they will get all the calls against a name team in the next round?

  4. liltmac2003 - Apr 22, 2011 at 2:59 AM

    While I absolutely do not think Indiana is a dirty-style team, there were many calls that were bogus.

    First is Foster. Slams into Rose when Rose jumped than throws his arms at Rose. Than he elbows Deng right in the head!!! Again, I don’t think Foster is a dirty player, but they were some boneheaded plays.

    There is also one call in the first half, where Rose was driving inside, than McRoberts holds Derrick and than grabs his arm, and the Refs called a jump ball.

    But w/e, the Bulls ended up getting the victory.

  5. gmsingh - Apr 22, 2011 at 7:38 AM

    “Heartbreaking loss”? What’s heartbreaking about the less talented team losing? If David Stern doesn’t levy some fines for what Indiana did with their “hard fouls” he’s an idiot. But please, can the hype by claiming Indiana losses are “heartbreaking”. Is PBT on the NBA payroll to hype the playoffs as much as possible so they can pad the ratings and line their pockets with even more money?

  6. pudgalvin - Apr 22, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    I’m as big a Bulls fan as there is and those hard fouls piss me off, but this is a big boys game, as Stacy King would say. Those fouls aren’t going to stop and they’re not going to call flagrants. Maybe lay a few of your own and see how Indiana reacts.

    The only one I thought was out of bounds was Foster’s elbow to Lou’s head, but that was such a bang, bang play, it’s hard to tell if he did it on purpose. It’s the playoffs here folks. They’re not going to let Rose just waltz into the lane whenever he wants anymore.

    • gmsingh - Apr 22, 2011 at 9:35 AM

      There’s no way to rationalize dirty play because you’re the crappier team.

      • pudgalvin - Apr 22, 2011 at 5:36 PM

        Sure there is. Any time a team with less talent plays a team with more talent, they try to out-physical them. It’s the only way they can hope to gain an advantage. That’s how it’s always been in the playoffs.

  7. mcgdos - Apr 22, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    This series has in now way changed how I feel about the Bulls playoff chances. The playoffs are about matchups. The Pacers have some length that bothers the Bulls bigs somewhat. No other teams have that mismatch with the Bulls after round one. There are no statement series. The Lakers get killed by every speedy point guard in the league so they dropped a game. The Sixers have no size to attack the Heat’s weaknesses. The Celtics no longer intimidate teams with their toughness so they struggle with a game but overmatched New York team. This is similar to the Hawks Celtics series from a few years ago. I just hope the national media doesn’t fall in love with Indy and name them as a team to watch.

  8. fouldwimmerlaik - Apr 22, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    I had higher expectations of the Bulls chances prior to this series. But, I am now beginning to believe what a lot of analysts were saying about them: Not enough offensive options. I think they can get through one more round in a tight series, but they are done after that.

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