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NBA Playoffs: It took five games, but Bulls play like contenders

Apr 26, 2011, 11:56 PM EDT

Indiana Pacers v Chicago Bulls - Game Five Getty Images

This looked like what we all expected this entire series to look like.

The Chicago Bulls dominated Game 5 Tuesday game from the start, were up 11 at the end of one quarter, pulled away in the third quarter and cruised to a 116-89 win. Now they sit around until next Monday (when the NBA says that series will start) and let Stan Van Gundy and Larry Drew fight to get off the hot seat.

The Pacers had kept the games in this series close by playing good defense, trapping Derrick Rose and using Paul George to limit him, and daring any other Bull to step up and beat them.

Finally the Bulls broke through Tuesday. Rose had 25 on 8-of-17 shooting and got a lot of those points against George — ankle problem? what ankle problem? — while Luol Deng had 24 points on 14 shots. The Bulls as a team shot 48.2 percent. More importantly, they shot 45.2 percent from three and hitting a franchise record 14 three pointers. In the end the Bulls averaged 123.4 points per 100 possessions, 19 points better than their season average.

Meanwhile, the Bulls kept on playing the defense that made them the No. 1 overall seed, with the Pacers shooting just 39.2 percent on the night.

You know things are going well for Chicago when Kyle Korver dunks.

The Bulls stretched out to a 10-point lead early on and the lead pretty much it hung around that number through the second quarter. Then in the third quarter the Bulls pulled away again, getting up by about 20, and from there we pretty much all knew it was about to end.

Maybe it got a little bit interesting was right at the start of the fourth quarter when Rose picked up his fifth foul. Of course, the Bulls were up 19, so there wasn’t that big a concern. The Pacers were looking for offense and went with a smaller lineup. Didn’t help.

The Pacers exposed some questions about the Bulls and their ability to score consistently in the playoffs that are going to have to be answered in the next couple rounds. Against better defenses.

For Indiana, there are a lot of big questions. They start with is Larry Bird coming back as president. Then, do you bring back interim head coach Frank Vogel, who certainly had the team playing better in his stint at the end of the season and into the playoffs. The offense opened up and there was a lot more defensive energy. But that is different than saying he’s a head coach.

The bigger question for the Pacers is how to step forward — this is a team stuck in the NBA’s quicksand of a middle ground. They are good enough to make the playoffs some years but never challenge. But they are not bad enough to fall down deep in the standings and try to find salvation in the lottery. A Los Angeles and New York can draw big free agents to get them out of that quicksand, Indiana cannot (not easily anyway).

So how do they move forward? They have some nice role players, but how do they get the stars to go with Danny Granger and make it a winner?

  1. dnbajunkie - Apr 27, 2011 at 2:19 AM

    Impressive win, the Bulls appeared to be more focused on the defense and no hesitation with their offense. It will be an interesting 2′nd round and maybe beyond.

  2. liltmac2003 - Apr 27, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    Game 5 is what everyone expected how the Bulls to play from the very start of the series. The entire game, they just looked calm and confident.

    I’m glad they found their rhythm now than later.

  3. florida727 - Apr 27, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    I’m a Bulls fan, but I’m still just cautiously optimistic about them. Remember, this was just the PACERS, and for FOUR games, the Bulls hardly looked like a championship contender. I’m hoping this was only them getting used to the ‘environment’ of playoff basketball. It’ll only getter tougher from here. Got to keep improving but they’re certainly on the right track.

    • chicago240 - Apr 27, 2011 at 9:05 AM

      Ask San Antonio what happens in the playoffs when you play the 8th seed. Heck, the Celtics were the only team to sweep and they played like garbage the last month of the season. So go figure. What the Bulls have done consistently is prove they can win close games….and that’s a good thing to be able to do. And it all starts with Rose who ratchets up his play enough to get them over the hump when the teammates he tries to involve earlier in the game don’t step up.

  4. blueintown - Apr 27, 2011 at 7:22 AM

    Has anyone actually watched the Bulls over the course of this year? Everyone acts as if they were a dominating juggernaut overwhelming the rest of the league with superior talent. Here’s the blueprint: Play defense, hang around, get your baskets where you can, and hit a few big shots here and there at the end to seal the deal (usually via Rose). This has been the case all season long. This isn’t the Lakers mauling their opponent with precise skill, it’s a very methodical “grindy” team, more in the mold of the 03-04 Pistons. If anything, LAST nights game was an aberration. The Bulls will rarely shoot like that from the outside, and 116 points is about as good a playoff total as this team can hope for.

    • philtration - Apr 27, 2011 at 11:31 AM

      I watched EVERY Bulls game this year and this was a lot closer to the way they played during the regular season than what we saw during the first 4 games of this series.

      The poor defense, stupid turnovers and Rose missing his 3 pointers was the aberration in the series.
      Not last nights game.

      • blueintown - Apr 27, 2011 at 3:27 PM

        The Bulls averaged 16 turnovers per game over the course of the series. They averaged 14 per game during the regular season (the number is inflated by the 22 T.O.’s in Game 2, a game they won. Otherwise the average is almost exactly the same as the regular season). Defensively, they gave up 90 points per game during the series. They gave up 91 per game during the regular season, so that’s another wash. Derrick Rose missing three’s isn’t out of the ordinary. He missed 67% of them during the regular season. Not exactly elite.

        I’m a lifelong diehard Bulls fan. I think they can win it all this year. I’m also not going to pretend they are something they are not. Start watching EVERY Bulls game with your eyes open.

    • chitownmatt - Apr 27, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      I agree, the Bulls rarely look like a “good team” They’re talent is making good teams look BAD and then finishing the game with 1 or 2 more points.

      Still a W is a W, and the Bulls definitely look much better against the better teams.

      I’m not saying they are going to win it all, but get ready for some 88 point games in the next couple of rounds.

    • philtration - Apr 27, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      The Bulls average margin of victory was +7.3 points a game this season.
      That is 2nd best in the league only to Miami’s +7.5.
      Hardly a team that could have lost another 20 games if not for a couple of points one way or the other.

      This is not a “grindy” team that barely squeaks out wins and there is nothing wrong with looking up this kind of information when you don’t know what you are talking about.

      • blueintown - Apr 27, 2011 at 4:53 PM

        Average margin of victory is calculated by subtracting total average points allowed from total average points scored. Using this method, you will see the average margin of victory for the Bulls in this series was 7.4. This series was and this team is “grindy” defined.

  5. gmsingh - Apr 27, 2011 at 8:24 PM

    The Bulls don’t necessarily have the best players in the league, but they have the best coach in the league and they play 48 minutes of basketball compared to the Pacers’ 44. They also have an excellent bench, which seems to get overlooked a lot in these Bulls discussions.

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