Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:17 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Two games, two leads with five minutes left. In both Games 1 and 2, the Pacers had the top-seeded Bulls backed up to a wall in crunch time. Ask Frank Vogel honestly if he expected to be leading late in both games and he'd probably say yes. But I think he'd be lying.
There was a pretty clear difference in the Indiana offense in those last five minutes. Yes, the Bulls absolutely cranked up their defense. That must be mentioned. But there's no doubt that the Pacers had no idea where to go with the ball.
The bad part is, they have a go-to guy in Danny Granger. The problem there is two-fold, though. One, Granger had Luol Deng guarding him, who is absolutely one of the most gifted one-on-one defenders in the league, and two, because Granger himself had no idea how he was supposed to score.
Here's what Granger did those last five minutes on Monday: missed a 17-foot jumper, made two free throws, missed a 26-foot jumper. That's it. That's all the Pacers' best player did in the biggest moments of the game. His fault? Hardly. Granger is the type of player that is a product of the four other players on the floor with him. He doesn't isolate, he doesn't score well off the dribble and he doesn't really create his own shot. He's best coming off a screen or finding the ball on a kick-out. He's a very good scorer, but only within the flow of a game.
In terms of clutch stats for the season (clutch is defined as the last five minutes of a game within five points), Granger shot just 30 percent from the field, took fewer attempts overall, but actually took more from 3. That tells me that Granger was forced to force. As the main offensive weapon, he's looking to score. But, he can't seem to get a normal look, so he had to launch from 25 feet.
The last five minutes of Indiana's 104-99 Game 1 loss in which the Bulls outscored the Pacers 14-1 down the stretch, Granger was just 0-2 with both shots being 3-pointers. This is a big, big issue for the Pacers. Granger averaged 20.5 points a game on the season and very obviously needs the ball. But Monday, the Pacers were actually running through rookie Paul George late. The assumption there is simply that George had a weak defender in Kyle Korver on him. That's not the best reason to go away from your best player, though. Then again, maybe it was Indiana's best option.
Against a team like Chicago that is truly an elite defensive team, you can't expect to get the same shot you got in the second quarter in the last five minutes. The game gets more physical, defenders crank up their energy and the officials let the game go a bit more. That hurts Granger, and the Pacers. In Game 1, Indiana was outscored 18-8 the last five minutes. Monday, it was 17-12.
That's why any coach would tell you what a gift it is to have a player like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Pau, LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki. The ball has a place in those last five minutes, and, not only that, it's in reliable hands. We can talk about clutch stats all we want, but the reality is, scoring in those last five minutes is tough. Having a guy that can at least get a look is a starter. Having a guy that can make it is even better. Indiana's lacking both right now.
The real shame is that the Pacers had a legitimate chance to win both games. They can point at a lot of things -- namely rebounding -- but offensive execution in the clutch is probably what will be the focus.
This is a team that had a solid 7-3 post player, but avoids him late in games (Roy Hibbert's field goal attempts drop by nearly two a game the last five minutes of a close contest). This is a team that has one of the better scorers in the league but can't find him a shot outside of a 3-pointer. This is a team that can score well the first 43 minutes of a game, but just can't seem to figure out the last five.
If they can somehow climb over that mountain -- against the Bulls, much less -- the Pacers will threaten to scare Chicago a little more than they already have. But it's going to start with finding shots for Granger. Because he's not going to find them on his own.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:13 am
Posted by Royce Young
Coming in to Chicago's series with Indiana, the Bulls had a couple clear advantages. Defense. Talent. Coaching. Derrick Rose. One that most didn't necessarily see coming? Rebounding.
Whoa boy, have the Bulls dominated the boards in these first two games.
The Bulls outrebound Indiana 57-33 in Game 2 which included 20 offensive boards. This comes after Chicago pulled in 21 offensive boards in Game 1 and held a 49-34 edge. Let me do the math here ... that's a 106-67 rebounding edge in favor of the Bulls after two games. I wonder if Pacer coach Frank Vogel feels a little silly telling his team that they're a better rebounding team during a timeout in Game 1?
In both games, the Bulls have gotten quite the push from the eight-seed Pacers. And, in both games, the Chicago offense sputtered. Monday, the Bulls shot 38.6 percent and turned the ball over 22 times. Without the work on the glass in both these games, the Bulls are down 0-2. There's no doubt.
Carlos Boozer had 16 rebounds (five offensive) and Joakim Noah pulled in 10 (six offensive). On the other side, the Pacers didn't have anyone grab more than six.
My question is, why is this happening? The Pacers employ a 7-3 center and two high-energy power forwards. Why are they getting crushed on the glass so badly? A lot of it is really just effort. Noah doesn't grab every rebound, but his effort makes a difference every time the ball goes up. The way he battles for the ball every time creates deflections, tips and more opportunities for Chicago to recover a miss.
But there's really no good excuse for Roy Hibbert to only grab four rebounds. He played just 21 minutes, but still, you're 7-3. Seven or eight rebounds should almost just fall into your hands when you're that big. The Pacers have played well enough to steal two games in Chicago. When they go back and review what went right and what went wrong in Games 1 and 2, the coaching staff may spend an hour punching the wall because of rebounding. To get beat largely because you couldn't recover a couple extra misses has to be about as frustrating a thing as there is.
It's a credit to the Bulls, though. They don't quit. They haven't played anywhere near to as good as they're capable of in these first two games, and yet, because they did the little things -- like rebound -- they're right where they expected to be. It might have been a little tighter than originally planned, but up 2-0 heading to Indianapolis, I'm sure the Bulls are fine with it.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 11:13 pm
Posted by Royce Young
Pacer point guard Darren Collison sprained his ankle late in the second quarter of Game 2 against the Bulls and won't return. He came out for the second half and warmed up, but went back to the locker room, unable to go on the tweaked ankle.
That's big for the Pacers who really rely on Collison to run their offense, score the ball and defend Derrick Rose. Without him, A.J. Price is forced to step up and fill the void. He'll likely return for Game 3, but his official status is day-to-day.
But what's a real shame is how Collison injured his ankle. It actually didn't happen on the court. It happened on the baseline as he stepped on the foot of a cameraman sitting under the Indiana basket.
I understand the placement of camerapeople there and I don't have a better solution as to where to place them, but the fact players have been injured because of it is just plain stupid. Chris Paul actually re-injured his knee last season and was forced to miss most of the season because he stumbled over a cameraman on the baseline.
Players get injured. It happens. But for it to happen because some dude in khakis with a ponytail is sitting under the basket with a Nikon in his hands isn't a good reason for it to happen. There's really just no reason for players -- in a PLAYOFF game to boot -- to be hurt in a situation like that.
Should the camerapeople be moved? Yeah, probably. Just take them back another five feet or something. I don't know if that's even possible, but I just hate that the Pacers chances in a very important game were altered because of something like that.
Posted on: April 18, 2011 1:17 pm
Edited on: April 18, 2011 1:23 pm
Posted by Royce Young
The result was what we all expected. The Bulls beat the Pacers in Game 1. But how we got there was the surprising part.
Most everyone saw this as a four-game sweep or maybe the Bulls in five (as our Matt Moore once dubbed that, a "gentleman's sweep"). That could very well remain true as Chicago leads 1-0 and the Pacers may have missed their best opportunity to take a game from the Bulls.
But here's the thing about the Pacers: When they shoot well, they're very good. Frank Vogel has a list of shooters -- Mike Dunleavy, Danny Granger, Brandon Rush, A.J. Price, James Posey, Darren Collison -- that can fill it up in stretches. And that's what they did against the Bulls in Game 1, shooting over 50 percent for most of the game. During the regular season, the Bulls only allowed that in 10 games. (Now of course, Indiana finished up under 50 percent in the game, but the message was sent.)
What might make Bulls' fans a bit anxious is that Chicago had to beat Indiana with two things: Derrick Rose and the free throw line. Rose went 19-21 on his own from the stripe while the Pacers went 11-17. (Chicago went 26-32 overall.) Take away Rose's transcendent performance (39 points, six assists, six rebounds) and the Bulls are left with their hat in their hands.
Chicago got little to nothing from Carlos Boozer who finished with 12. Luol Deng hit some big second half shots but faded in and out a bit. Other than Kyle Korver, the Bulls bench contributed little offensively. It's a concern for Chicago moving ahead not just in this series with the Pacers, but if they have any plans to go deep into the postseason.
So what can we watch for moving on in this series? Three things:
Chicago's perimeter defense. The Pacers shot 10-18 from 3 for the game and really their outside shooting is almost what did in the Bulls. Across the board, the Pacers were great from 3. Danny Granger was 4-8. Darren Collison, A.J. Price and Brandon Rush combined to go 6-7. Like I said above, the Pacers are a dangerous shooting team (remember that 20-21 third quarter from earlier in the season?).
Rebounding. The Bulls absolutely dominated on the glass, grabbing 21 offensive rebounds. The biggest came with under a minute left as Kurt Thomas tracked down a rebound that forced Indiana to start foul. The Pacers have decent size inside with Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster, but the Bulls are a superior rebounding team with Joakim Noah and Boozer.
The Bulls struggled offensively for a lot of the day, but all those second opportunities piled up. If Indiana cuts that number by three or four, the Pacers probably win.
How the officials handle Rose. Rose's 21 free throw attempts were the most from the opening weekend and is up there in terms of most all-time. The Pacers weren't thrilled with the free throw differential but it's hard to see how they have a ton of room to complain. Rose attacked the rim constantly and while yes, he did get the benefit of some calls, his aggressiveness is what forced the officials' hands.
Without the free throws, Chicago would've been in big trouble. If the next crew of officials lets the game get a bit more physical, it could have an impact. If Rose gets the whistle, you aren't guarding him.
Posted on: April 16, 2011 5:16 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 1:42 pm
The Bulls barely survived against the Pacers. But was the best effort for the Pacers in a loss a back-breaker for Indy?
Posted by Matt Moore
Count your blessings, Chicago, and pat yourself on the back for a great fourth quarter. But with the Bulls getting a stiff wake-up call against the Pacers, you'd think that it would set the table for a long, hard-fought series.
Unless the Bulls just delivered the back-breaker.
Before we start here, there's going to be a lot of talk about overreaction to one game. And that's totally fair. We need to see how the rest of the series plays out. We need to see more than one could-be outlier game, and whether the trends that put the Pacers in the game hold or totally fall apart. What we want to do, though, is guide you through what's happening, ask the questions the narrative creates, and not feed you traditional talk. We could prattle on about the Bulls and a great win, because that fits the narrative, right? MVP wins the game with a superb effort, and the sweep is on. But that's not what happened. The Pacers pushed the Bulls and exploited a lot of narratives. Yes, Rose was incredible, on offense. But Darren Collison and A.J. Price both had good contributions against Rose's defense, and in the name of all that is holy, can Carlos Boozer guard Tyler Hansbrough? We can't brush over this game. We're still confident the Bulls have this series under firm control, but there's stuff to talk about. That's basketball.
Tyler Hansbrough had a huge game (his second of the year against the Bulls). The Pacers shot 56 percent from the arc, when their season average is 35 percent, and 31 percent against Chicago . Four Pacers made double-digits. The Pacers' offensive efficiency was 113.8 against the Bulls Saturday. In the regular season, they were at 93.29 versus the Bulls. Darren Collison torched Derrick Rose. (Not as badly as Derrick Rose torched Collison, and every one of the Pacers, but still, it should be noted). The Pacers had dozens of things go right for them.
And they lost.
To have a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lose? To lose like that? How do you come back from that? On the one hand, you could argue it gives the Pacers confidence. They can hang with the Bulls, right? They played them tough, in Game 1, on the road. But on the other hand, they played so well in just about every area, good enough to win if the game was 45 minutes long. But it's not, and the Pacers lost. If an 8 seed is going to hang with the 1 seed, it has to be done with emotion and confidence. Instead of walking out feeling like they could take down the Bulls, they just proved they can play as well as possible and walk out with a loss. How does a team that young respond?
Tyler Hansbrough was a huge emotional lift for the Pacers and, oddly, he's probably the most sustainable success story from Game 1 for the Pacers. Boozer can't guard him. Can't do it. And the pick-and-pop work is the one thing the Bulls' tremendous defense will allow. But unless Hansbrough can go on a ridiculous shooting streak, even that seems circumspect. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert had a huge start, then completely vanished. There was enough in that game to show that what gave the Pacers the lead won't wind up maintaining as the series goes forward.
The Bulls allowed the Pacers to push them to the edge, and then largely one player (with a nice Korver three thrown in and a good spurt from Noah, who wasn't great overall) took over and sent them back to the lockers dejected. If the Pacers stare at how close they came and how far they fell, it may be an early end to what looked like a tough series, with even five minutes left in the game.
That's the impact of a great player in the NBA playoffs.
Posted on: April 16, 2011 4:23 pm
Edited on: April 17, 2011 1:44 pm
Posted by Royce Young
It took 47 minutes and 12 seconds for the Bulls -- the top seed in the entire NBA playoffs -- to take a lead over the 37-win Indiana Pacers. For those first 47 minutes and 11 seconds, it looked like we had the seeds mixed up. The Pacers looked sharp, confident and crisp while the Bulls looked nervous and tight. And, after a three-point play from Tyler Hansbrough that put Indiana up 10 with three minutes left, worried.
But the Bulls have the luxury of possessing a special, special player that wears No. 1 on his back. Derrick Rose was every bit the MVP in this one, keying a 14-1 run for Chicago and leading the Bulls to a hard fought 104-99 victory over the scrappy Pacers. Rose had 39 points and basically carried his team, but it was a smart decision late in the fourth that put the Bulls over the top.
With the game tied at 99-99, Rose had the option to attack in transition. Instead, he deferred to Kyle Korver, who was open on the 3-point line. Korver dropped in a massive shot that pretty much ended the dream day for the Pacers. A brilliant play, and one that showed Rose is entirely willing to trust teammates in big moments, which is a big key for Chicago moving forward.
The story will likely be about how Chicago nearly dropped a dud in the first game, but don't overlook what these young Pacers did. They know they're overwhelming underdogs. They know most aren't giving them a chance to even win a game in this series. Yet with 3:28 left in this game, they led by 10 and really had the Bulls up against a wall.
Every punch the Bulls threw, Indiana came back with two. Danny Granger had a huge second half with 18 points (24 overall), Hansbrough basically took over in stretches and, most importantly, the Pacers played smart. They had this game. They really did. But in those last three minutes, they couldn't figure out where to go for points. It was almost like they looked at the scoreboard for the first time and said, "Holy crap, we're up 10!" and then tightened up and tried to just take a couple knees and run out the clock.
For 97 percent of the game, the Pacers played without fear, without hesitation and without any idea that they were supposed to lose. It was impressive.
Maybe it was just me, but I sensed an air of arrogance from the Bulls for the first three quarters. Kind of like they just expected to handle the Pacers. Like they thought the Pacers were just a cricket they needed to squash before leaving the house. Obviously, not the case.
The Bulls didn't play very well, especially in terms of their standards. Their defense was sketchy (allowed 55 points in the first half and 50 percent shooting the first three quarters). The offensive execution was inconsistent with most of Chicago's offense being called "Derrick Rose." All of that compromised Chicago's overall performance and really, the Bulls were lucky to escape with a win.
Look at the shot selection just by Rose. He was 10-23 overall, but 0-9 from 3. He did a terrific job getting to the line (19-21; by contrast Indiana as a team was 14-17), but the Bulls played with the kind of frustration you see in a team that's confused about why they're not up by 15. They kept trying to score six points at a time instead of just taking the game possession by possession.
It's not unexpected though. We've all placed grand expectations on this Bulls team, but really, they're not too different from Indiana. They're young, inexperienced and unproven. Only difference is the Bulls have the target on their back and have to play with the weight of expectation. The Pacers got to play with house money.
Where Chicago won the game was on the glass with 21 offensive rebounds and a 49-34 edge overall. The biggest was the last one by veteran Kurt Thomas with 18 seconds left that forced the Pacers to foul. If Indiana grabs two or three more defensive boards, we're all writing much different stories that probably have headlines like, "Panic time in Chicago?"
But that run in the last three minutes was a title team style effort. It's what you see the great squads do. Lull for 45 minutes, turn it on for three. And win. That last part is the most important.
It's probably better in the end for Chicago to understand that nothing comes easy in the postseason. Playing with fire is dangerous and Tom Thibodeau definitely isn't psyched about how his team played, but he definitely has something to talk about with his group now. The Bulls need to sort some things out. Rose is amazing, but they aren't advancing past Miami if Rose has to score 40 every night in a seven-game series. Other players have to step up. They knew that already, but they got a pretty good reminder of it today against a lesser team.
More than likely, Indiana blew its best chance to steal a game from the Bulls. Now, Chicago has that first one out of the way and it survived. They can refocus, loosen up a bit and just go play their game. The Pacers have the Bulls attention now. That's for sure. And that's probably a good thing for the Bulls going forward.
Posted on: April 15, 2011 1:04 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 3:18 pm
The NBA playoffs are here. We've previewed the Eastern Conference. Now here are our picks along with the rest of the CBS NBA staff for you to mock or praise. Be gentle.
Here are the EOB picks for the Eastern Conference, with a little 'splainin. Leave your picks below.
8 Pacers vs. 1 Bulls
Ben Golliver: If Derrick Rose can walk on water and turn water into wine, surely he can overcome an average Indiana Pacers team that has no hope of stopping him. Of all the playoff series, this one probably has the greatest sweep potential, as the Bulls enter the series fully motivated because they need to establish their post-season reputation ASAP. There’s not a single match-up that truly favors Indiana. Prediction: Bulls in four.
Royce Young: Almost every matchup favors the Bulls as well as style of play. Indiana will play them hard and probably play them pretty close, but this has sweep written all over it. The Pacers won't do any sneaking up because of Granger's bulletin board material, so their best shot at stealing a game is gone. However, I'd like to think the Pacers will be excited enough to pull one off at home, just to treat the Indy fans. Prediction: Bulls in five.
Matt Moore: This should be a sweep. It really should. On the surface it has all the makings. But with the Bulls' offense able to dry up like it can, versus a young and versatile Pacers team with a top flight center and a good point guard, I think the Bulls wind up giving them the gentleman's sweep. It's still a sweep, but you give 'em one, to be polite. Prediction: Bulls in five.
Ken Berger: Roy Hibbert can make Derrick Rose think twice before driving to the rim, but the Bulls are too good defensively to allow Indiana to mount any sort of a challenge. This will be a test of how serious Chicago is about winning a championship. A matchup like this doesn't deserve any more than their minimum time investment. They'll need to get this over with quickly and get ready for the brutal battles ahead. Prediction: Bulls in four.
7 Sixers vs. 2 Heat
Ken Berger: If this were the timid, confused, jump-shooting Heat team we saw earlier in the season, the Sixers would have a chance to make this interesting. But the way Miami is attacking the rim and scoring in the paint, this will be a quick and relatively painless path to the second round. Two things the Sixers have going for them: Lou Williams is back, giving them a boost off the bench, and they're one of the top 3-point-defending teams in the league. So there's that. Prediction: Heat in four.
Royce Young: The Sixers are long, fast, athletic and can run. The Heat are longer, faster, more athletic and run better. Not good for Philly. There is always a chance things could happen because I think there's a sincere uncertainty about exactly how the Heat will respond to playoff basketball, but Miami just has too much talent for the Sixers. Maybe they can win a game, which I think would be a victory. Prediction: Heat in four.
Ben Golliver: The Miami Heat have been up, down and all over the map this season, but they closed strong and draw a match-up against an overachieving 76ers group whose season will still be seen as a success if they get bounced quickly. Elton Brand will be a load, but everyone else is manageable, and Philly just doesn’t have the overall offensive chops to keep up with the triad. Prediction: Heat in five.
Matt Moore: I flipped on this prediction six times. I started out with your standard 2-2-2 6-game set. Then I went all wacky and went to a seven game series with fans and media talking about how terrible the Heat are, and could they lose in the first round. Then I walked it back to a sweep. Then back to a six-gamer. Then I thought maybe a gentleman's sweep (5 games, you give 'em one out of being polite). But I keep coming back to that Heat team that lost to mediocre team after mediocre team this season. Except Philly. Which either means the Sixers have no chance or they're due. I have absolute faith in Miami winnning. I just have no faith in them winning comfortably. Prediction: Heat in six.
6 Knicks vs. 3 Celtics
Matt Moore: The Knicks take two games here because stars step up in the playoffs, and both Stoudemire and Anthony are huge stars. The Celtics are much better but still finding their way. The Knicks defense will show up for 1.5 games, and that plus their offense will land them two games. Anthony is not efficient, but he's going to have a field day with Pierce's defense. Billups will have one big game and so will some other random Knick. That will give them a false sense of hope in New York going forward. Should be entertaining. Prediction: Celtics in six.
Ben Golliver: Given how much the midseason trade for Anthony compromised New York’s depth, there’s a sense that the not yet fully formed Knicks are just happy to be in the post-season for the first time since 2003-2004. The Celtics, meanwhile, aren’t playing their best basketball but they do enter the post-season with a greater urgency, given the age and mentality of their core players. The Garnett/ Pierce/ Allen/ Rondo core has defeated far better all-around teams than this year’s Knicks, and a B- or better performance from Boston should be enough to see the Celtics through to the second round and a likely dream match-up with the Miami Heat. Prediction: Celtics in five.
Ken Berger: Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony cancel each other out. Kevin Garnett and Amar'e Stoudemire cancel (and curse) each other out. Boston's gaping hole at center isn't a big deal, since the Knicks don't have a center, either. So this comes down to how well Ray Allen shoots the three-ball, and the point guard matchup. Rondo torched the Knicks during the regular season (though only one of those meetings was post-trade with all the regulars playing). Despite his late-season swoon, Rondo should be in full orchestration mode against the slower, older Chauncey Billups. One caveat here: While defense trumps offense in the playoffs, Melo and Amar'e are so scary good that if either one gets on a serious roll, it would change the complexion of the series. Prediction: Celtics in five.
Royce Young: Back when the Melo trade finally happened, most people agreed: You don't want these Knicks in the playoffs -- they're dangerous. Are they though? Are they actually dangerous enough with two elite offensive players to push the Celtics? Depends on your definition of "push." I think the Knicks can win two games, but this is Boston's series. Prediction: Celtics in six.
5 Hawks vs. 4 Magic
Royce Young: Everyone is picking Orlando -- myself included -- but the Hawks actually won the season series 3-1. But that's being ignored because it's hard to forget what happened last postseason between these two teams. I get the feeling the Hawks are ready for this one and want to prove a little something, but the Magic are much better than they are. I feel seven games though for some reason. Prediction: Magic in seven.
Matt Moore: This series will actually be pretty interesting. All the matchups point towards the Hawks being able to make a run and knock off the Magic. But we've seen this kind of situation with the Celtics versus the Heat last year. You have to trust the tested playoff team that's won before. Factor in the chance that Nelson steps up and Howard's ability to take over a game every now and then and the Magic are still the favorites, if for no other reason than their defense. Prediction: Magic in six.
Ben Golliver: For a capable,versatile, athletic group, the Atlanta Hawks sure are disappointing. They strike fear in the hearts of no one considering their heartless performance last season. Their uneven, often unmotivated, play under first year coach Larry Drew doesn’t bode well for avoiding a repeat of history. This year’s Magic are good – not great – but they have more than enough offensive firepower and the best player in the series, by a mile, in Dwight Howard. Prediction: Magic in four.
Ken Berger: Atlanta won the season series 3-1, in large part because they kept Dwight Howard's damage to a minimum on the offensive end. Of the teams Orlando played four times this season, only Miami held Dwight to a lower scoring average. The Magic are on the short end of defensive mismatches at every spot except center, and even there, Jason Collins has done as good a job on Howard as anyone. So why am I picking Orlando? Because Howard will control the paint defensively and the glass, because the Magic are better-coached, and because the Hawks have been so inconsistent lately it's hard to figure out what they are. Also, there's not much home-court advantage in the ATL, and when things start going poorly for the Hawks, they get ugly quickly. Prediction: Magic in five.
Posted on: April 14, 2011 1:56 pm
Edited on: April 14, 2011 5:01 pm
Posted by Royce Young
I don't know why Danny Granger decided to open his mouth. For some reason, he decided to blurt out that he thinks the Bulls would be easier to beat in a seven-game series than the Celtics. I have no idea either.
Because maybe the best shot this young Indiana team had coming in against Chicago was the surprise attack. Maybe the Pacers sneak up on the Bulls, steal Game 1 and then at least make things interesting. Now there's none of that. The Bulls heard you Danny, and they'll be ready.
I don't think this series will be all that glamorous. It's a 62-win team versus a 37-win one. That's a large, large difference. This is a great team versus an average one. It is the postseason and sometimes fun things happen, but this is kind of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get situation. It's hard to picture any scenario other than the inevitable unless Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng get kidnapped by Larry Bird.
II. What Happened: A look at the season seriesThe Bulls took the season series 3-1, by an average margin of 11.5 points per game. Indiana's three losses through were under the Jim O'Brien regime. The one win was behind interim Frank Vogel, which came in overtime. Other than that Indiana win, the season series was entirely lopsided. Chicago won by 19, 13 and 21 with those three games never even really being as close as even that number indicates.
Here's the bad news for Indiana: In those four games, they shot just 38 percent from the floor. The Pacers struggled scoring the ball from everywhere. The paint was sealed, the 3-point line was covered and Indiana's go-to guys never got clean looks. In their win, it was all about a surprising big night from Tyler Hansbrough. Not encouaging.
III. The Easy Stuff: Derrick Rose is goodDo I really need to sit here and tell you that Derrick Rose is good, that he's the best and most important player in this series and that if he plays even close to what he's capable of, the Bulls will cruise? Yeah, I probably do.
Derrick Rose is good, he's the best and most important player in this series and if he plays even close to what he's capable of, the Bulls will cruise.
It's easy to label Rose something like an "X-factor" but that's almost disrespectful. He is The Factor. He changes everything. Indiana has absolutely no one qualified to guard him and can't match him in crunch time. If these games stay close, the Bulls have a clear go-to scorer. Indiana has some decent players, but nothing the caliber of Rose.
IV. Secret of the Series: Can Indiana score?Under Vogel, the Pacers have tried to become more of an up-tempo, high volume shooting team. They want to get up around 90 attempts a game. Under O'Brien, they tried to grind it out defensively and while they had some early success, couldn't sustain. Now, they want to run you.
That's of course interesting because they're going up against the premier defensive team in the NBA. The Bulls rank first in basically every defensive category, most important of which is defensive efficiency where they allow just 100.3 points per 100 possessions. (That's awesome. )
The Pacers are technically a better defensive team than offensive one (rank 12th in defensive efficiency, 23rd in offensive), but that's not the point. They want to try to score more than 100. Under Vogel, they consistently topped the century mark. In games they did that, the Pacers won a lot more. In wins, Indiana averaged 107.8 points per game. In losses, 93.2. That's a major difference.
Indiana is looking to outscore the Bulls, which of course isn't the best strategy, but it's probably the only one. I mean, what else are you going to do, beat the Bulls at their own game?
V. The Dinosaur Narrative : “Chicago can't win now because they haven't won before”I keep hearing people ask this question. The Rose led Bulls haven't ever won a playoff series; how can they win the whole thing? I kind of think that's a dumb question. Mainly because, Chicago will get their series win pretty easily over Indiana. So that'll be out of the way and the Bulls can get their hand stamped and move on.
But this inexperience card is one people love to play. Obviously the Pacers are far more untested in terms of playoff basketball, but the issue is whether or not these young Bulls will feel the pressure of being top dog coming in. I don't think so. Rose has already proven he elevates his game in the postseason, Tom Thibodeau has a championship ring and there are a number of quality veterans on the Bulls roster.
It's stressful having expectations on you, no doubt. The Bulls haven't gone deep into the postseason yet. But they're going to get part of it out of the way to start with and the Pacers are just going to be a small bump in the road.
VI. The Line-Item Veto: Who wins each match-up?PG: Darren Collison has become a pretty solid point guard in the mold of Chris Paul. He creates, slashes and scores on his own. The Bulls have Derrick Rose. This isn't even close.
SG: The ugliest, least important matchup is definitely found in the 2-guard hold. Keith Bogans, a defensive specialist, versus Paul George, an athletic but extremely raw rookie. Not exactly marquee, this one.
SF: I think Danny Granger versus Luol Deng is one of the more underrated head-to-heads in the entire opening round. Obviously Indiana's success hinges largely on Granger and Deng is a terrific defender. Plus, Deng can score the ball. In the previous four meetings, Deng has gotten the best of Granger so I see no reason why not to go with him here.
PF: Tyler Hansbrough has been pretty good the last two months. He's high energy, high effort and has a decent little mid-range game. Clearly Carlos Boozer is better, but I think this matchup is a bit closer than it appears.
C: If the good Roy Hibbert shows up, he's a tough matchup for Joakim Noah. The good Hibbert can score, rebound, block shots and control a game from the post. But if it's the bad Hibbert, Noah will eat him alive. That's what Noah tends to do with people. He's a terrific post defender. But Hibbert has a lot of size on him and Indiana needs one edge in these matchups, so I'll give it to Hibbert.
Bench: Neither is overwhelmingly good, but I like Chicago's because of players like Kurt Thomas, Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and Omer Asik. All make nightly impacts for Chicago. Indiana has some guys that can Heat up off the pine like Brandon Rush, Mike Dunleavy and James Posey, plus Josh McRoberts who has been a surprise, but the Bulls have depth in their depth.
Coach: Both are rookies, but one is more of a rookie than the other. Thibodeau will likely be this season's Coach of the Year and has transformed the Bulls into one of the elite defensive teams in the league. Vogel has done an admirable job with the Pacers, but not even his organization sees him as head coaching material moving forward. A clear edge for Chicago.
The Pacers are a pretty good "We're just happy to be here!" team. With only 37 wins, they shouldn't even be in the final 16, but here they are. They know they're up against a favorite and know deep down the goal would be to win two games. This postseason would be an overwhelming success if they were able to pull that off.
VIII. CBSSports.com Video Preview
The Chicago Bulls will take on the Indiana Pacers in this Central Division playoff matchup. Will Derrick Rose help lead the Bulls to a championship? Ian Eagle and Ken Berger preview this playoff matchup.