Tag:Luol Deng
Posted on: April 23, 2011 6:18 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 6:40 pm
 

Bulls still lead 3-1, but it doesn't feel like it

Posted by Royce Young



Despite the loss on Saturday, the Bulls still lead their opening round series over Indiana 3-1, and will most likely close things out Tuesday in Chicago. Losing is never fun, but the Pacers stealing a game at home isn't really anything to panic over.

But here's a little something to at least re-adjust your collar over: The Bulls haven't played one good game yet in the playoffs. Again, they're 3-1. That's good. They're going to advance. That's good. But if you made both teams go shirts and skins and you didn't know Derrick Rose from Derrick Coleman, I'm not sure you would be able to pick out who the 37-win team is and who the 62-win one is.

The Bulls have shot under 40 percent in three of the four games. In the last two, Rose is just 10-40 (25 percent). Carlos Boozer has yet to really have one good, complete game. Luol Deng is the same. Same for Kyle Korver off the bench. Honestly, I can't tell you one player that has definitely played well all four games.

Again, no reason to completely panic. The playoffs are tough. Teams don't want to lose. The Bulls are adjusting to that and they've taken care of the most important part -- they've won. Still, the idea is that you're playing your very best basketball during the postseason. Chicago's defense hasn't really missed a beat, but if they play this way again Boston, or Miami, they're not moving on.

Either someone else has to step up with a couple key buckets -- i.e. Korver -- or Rose has to play wonderfully -- i.e. Games 1 and 2. That's the position the Bulls have put themselves in so far in this series versus the Pacers. Maybe it's actually a good thing they get another shot to work some of this stuff out before it gets serious against either Atlanta or Orlando.

Because if you take even the best of these four games and translate it into a series against the Magic, Hawks, Celtics or Heat and I don't think Chicago is winning. I'd say their best performance was probably Game 2, and even then they shot under 40 percent and won because of the free throw line and offensive rebounding.

The Bulls have never claimed to win pretty. They've never really done a lot more than just play excellent defense. Again, though, to put yourself in the position to expect a perfect game from Rose isn't a model for success in the playoffs. It's not just about someone else stepping up. It's about playing better, period.

This Chicago team came in with the best regular season record in basketball and aspirations to maybe even win an NBA title. The Chicago team that has played four games against the Pacers isn't doing that, and probably wouldn't see the Eastern Finals.

It's way, way too early to come to any conclusions based on this series with the Pacers, because the Bulls will likely take care of things in five. And, it's better to get the bad play out against a lesser opponent. But, I promise you, Tom Thibodeau is a bit anxious. You can just keep saying they'll snap out of it, but the road to glory isn't easy and it gets far tougher the more difficult you make it on yourself.
Posted on: April 23, 2011 5:58 pm
Edited on: April 23, 2011 6:53 pm
 

Finally, Indiana holds on -- but just barely

Posted by Royce Young



With the Pacers holding an 18-point fourth quarter lead over the Bulls, everyone inside Conseco Fieldhouse could feel it coming -- half of those being Chicago fans. You knew this game wasn't over. Not with these Bulls. More importantly, not with these Pacers.

Chicago ripped off a 13-1 run the last four minutes to cut Indiana's lead to one with 15 seconds left and it just looked like deja vu. The Pacers were about to somehow, someway, give away another game to the Bulls and in turn, close the series. It would've been in a new way too -- not rebounding or late execution to blame as much as the 12 missed free throws.

This time, though, the Pacers did just enough. And I mean that. Just enough. After Danny Granger drilled two from the line, Indiana kept the ball away from Derrick Rose and Kyle Korver instead of forcing Carlos Boozer to attempt a game-tying 3 with a few seconds left. He missed and, finally, the Pacers took a game.

Here's the funny thing about this game, at least to me: It was pretty much the exact same game as the first three. The Bulls didn't play well, the Pacers did and Indiana had a lead in the fourth quarter with a good chance to win. The only difference on Saturday, is that, for once, the Pacers actually finished with more points on the board.

Don't underestimate the importance of that either. No, they aren't winning this series and probably won't take another game, but hanging on for a win really says something about them. They played virtually the same game, except this time, they won. That's maturation. That's development. That's important.

It's not like the Pacers did a whole lot better in crunch time, though. They still just scored seven points the last five minutes with only one basket. The Bulls still almost came back from the dead to break Indy's heart. Two things that changed for them:

1) The hole Chicago fell in was a bit too deep. Down 16 in the last four minutes is a pretty tall mountain to climb. (However, how bad is it for the Pacers when absolutely NO ONE was convinced they had this thing won when they were up 16 with four minutes left. When does that ever happen?)

2) The Pacers made a couple big plays. The biggest was probably Darren Collison's block of Rose at the rim with 1:13 left. Rose would've cut Indy's lead to just three with a minute left, but instead the Pacers had the opportunity to run off 24 very important seconds. 

And there were subtle signs that this game might be different. A Kyle Korver 3 was disallowed after review for being after the shot clock expired, and later, Korver air-balled a 3 with 4:40 left. The previous three games, Korver had hit a number of big shots to sink Indiana. In Game 4, the two big ones he had either didn't count, or didn't even touch iron.

Because, as I wrote after Game 2, it's gotten to the point where Korver sort of has to carry the Chicago offense in late-game situations. That sounds crazy, but in this game, Rose actually missed 10 consecutive shots before making a layup. After a 4-18 effort in Game 3, he went just 6-22 and 1-9 from 3. He did a much better job this time around of involving teammates (10 assists) but there's just no denying that Rose hasn't been the Derrick Rose the past few games that will win the MVP.

Either someone else has to step up with a couple key buckets -- i.e. Korver -- or Rose has to play wonderfully -- i.e. Games 1 and 2. That's the position the Bulls have put themselves in so far in this series. Maybe it's actually a good thing they get another shot to work some of this stuff out before it gets serious against either Atlanta or Orlando.

But, back to the Pacers. This is big for them. Maybe this means Frank Vogel gets the interim tag taken off. Maybe this encourages the front office to spend a little this summer. Maybe this gives the team a lift and some momentum into next season. Don't underestimate the value of winning a game like this, even if it just delays the inevitable. Not only would blowing an 18-point lead be something devastating, but getting swept in a series where there was a real chance to win not just one, not two or three but all four games, would be difficult to swallow.

The Pacers were never given a shot coming in. There was no reason to give them one. They entered the postseason eight games under .500 and were playing the team with the best record in basketball. But Indiana has scrapped its way to a win. It's a bit overdue and definitely a little late, but there's no denying it ... it's pretty important.
Posted on: April 23, 2011 1:38 am
 

Series Reset Bulls-Pacers: Playing for pride

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative:
This series is over. No team has ever come back from 3-0 down in NBA playoff history and the 37-win Pacers are not about to be the first. The thing Pacer fans will remember about this postseason was just how close they were to making this a competitive series. It's hard to get over the three losses coming by a combined 15 points. That's just tough to get over. A rebound here, a basket there or a stop somewhere and maybe this series is 2-1 and still interesting.

Instead, the Pacers are sunk. It's over. Now it's just a matter of crossing some t's and dotting some i's.

The Hook: Will the Pacers roll over? What do they have left to give? Every game has been very close and very competitive with the better Bulls just figuring out a way to win. That's probably what'll happen again here, but the question is how the Pacers will respond to this situation. When the series began it was just about "happy to be here." After a tight Game 1, it was "can they steal a game in Chicago?" After a tight Game 2 it was "can they regroup?" This time it's "will they fold?"

The Adjustment: At this point, I think Indiana has done all the adjusting that it can. The Pacers know they aren't as good as the Bulls and though they've been close three times, they now know they can't beat Chicago even when Derrick Rose plays badly.

Chicago though, has a couple things to clean up, especially as they prepare to advance on. The Bulls need to refocus on the offensive end. Rose did not play well in Game 3 save one brilliant drive to win the game. Chicago needs to put together a better offensive strategy to attack the athletic Pacers and build a bit of confidence moving forward.

The X-Factor: Well, it's become Kyle Korver. He's 7-8 from 3 in this series and in the big moments where all the focus is on Rose, Korver has found space for clean looks. And he's about as good as there is at drilling open looks.

The Bulls don't have a crunch time secondary scorer right now, but Korver has sort of stepped in as such just by the product of him being a good shooter and being open.

The Sticking Point:
I've gone back and forth about 25 times on if I think Indiana has tossed its best shot and is ready to just concede the series. Part of me says the Pacers are still game to send the series back to Chicago, but another tells me that three tight crunch time failures is just about enough to snap their backs.

So I'll just settle in between. The Bulls are going to win this game, but the Pacers will keep it tight for a good 40 minutes. But the Bulls are finally going to impose their will and finish Indiana late. We're all waiting to see that. We're all waiting to see the Bulls that won 62 games. We're all waiting to see this team that can supposedly contend. This would be a good place to start.
Posted on: April 22, 2011 6:21 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 6:53 pm
 

NBA hits Jeff Foster with 2 flagrant fouls

The NBA investigating hard fouls by Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Foster and upgraded them to flagrants. Posted by Matt Moore and Ben Golliver

Update: The NBA has retroactively assessed Indiana Pacers forward Jeff Foster with two flagrant 1 fouls according to ESPN.com.
The NBA upgraded two hits Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster leveled against the Chicago Bulls during Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series on Thursday, making them both flagrant 1 fouls.
Flagrant 1 fouls are less serious than Flagrant 2 fouls and the ruling will not require Foster to sit out Game 4.

Original Post: Jeff Foster nailed Derrick Rose with an elbow in Game 3 between the Pacers and Bulls Thursday night, and ESPN reports the league is investigating the collision to see if further punishment is necessary. 
The NBA is reviewing two hits Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster leveled against the Chicago Bulls during Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinals series on Thursday, according to a league spokesman. "Whatever they want to do," Foster said with a shrug as he walked to the locker room Friday afternoon. He was unaware of the league review.
via 2011 NBA Playoffs: NBA reviewing hits by Indiana Pacers center Jeff Foster - ESPN Chicago.

The foul was clearly intentional. Wouldn't you intentionally foul Rose at some point if he was continuously slicing past your defense with no regard for anything? But the problem with the foul was the contact of Foster's elbow into Rose's face. And that wasn't clearly intentional. It's apparent Foster was aiming to make contact with his elbow to Rose, but it's not certain that Foster was trying to hit Rose in the face. 


 

So Foster probably will recieve some sort of punishment, based on how little of a play on the ball he made, and even had he missed the head, he would have clotheslined Rose. The biggest reason he'll get tagged, though? It's a superstar in a major market. Not all hard playoff fouls are created equal and the call to protect the presumptive MVP will be considerably greater than it will be for other players. 

The league is also taking a look at a foul from Foster on Luol Deng in the same quarter. Popular guy, Jeff. 

One thing you can count on? There will be other, harder fouls than this in the playoffs that won't receive as much fan or league attention. 
Posted on: April 22, 2011 3:28 am
 

Pacers-Bulls Game 3 Reactions

Reactions from around the web to Game 3 of Pacers-Bulls. 
Posted by Matt Moore




George, for one, believes he can continue to keep Rose in check.

"He got a good estimation of what I can do defensively," said George, who has hit 4-of-18 shots in the series. "It seems like it's in the back of his mind sometimes when he wants to drive. He's not as decisive as he was in Game I, I believe. Hopefully my length will continue to bother him."

Still, Rose had the last word with his game-winning layup, doing what the Pacers have failed to do throughout the series: close out a game.
via Pacers' George thinks he's bothering Rose - Chicago Bulls Blog - ESPN Chicago.

Other than the obnoxious style of this post (yes, let's bring up the shooting percentage of the defensive stopper rookie when talking about defense), the quote's got some umph to it. Rose did struggle tonight. He hit the game winner, because he's awesome and that's what he does, but he also had an absolutely terrible game. 23 points on 18 shots, 5 turnovers. It was the way those turnovers came that were most perplexing. And George is right, here, Rose was less aggressive than he has been in this series. But that's partially due to the fact that the Pacers sent two and sometimes three players at Rose in half-court traps. They, naturally, abandoned that strategy on the final possesion, likely fearing getting Korver'd again. And if I were George, I wouldn't want to speak confidently after Rose destroyed his team in consecutive games, then had a bad game and still wound up sending them into an 0-3 hole. Just doesn't seem smart. 
Noting Chicago's history of traveling in large numbers, Pacers coach Frank Vogel asked the fans to support the team, joking that metal detectors would keep Bulls fans out of the building.
via Rose's late drive lifts Bulls to 3-0 lead on Pacers - NBA - CBSSports.com.

That's... uh... Coach? Is that what you meant? Because that does not come out right at all. Turns out, her's what Vogel actually said.  
"We need to fill the building with blue and gold," said Vogel, who joked that the Pacers have a plan to keep Bulls fans away.

"We're going to have metal detectors out there to scan the metal people are bringing in the building, but people who are wearing red ... they're not going to get through the metal detectors, either."
via Pacers return home down 0-2 vs Bulls - USATODAY.com.

So that doesn't sound so bad. That sounds a whole lot different from how it's tabbed in the beginning. Because one is a joke about not letting people wearing red in, and the other is about people wearing red not being allowed in because those people are armed. Which would look really bad, especially for the coach of Indiana. That said, how disheartening is it to have a playoff game in your own building and the arena is split between your fans and the visiting team. That will go away if the Pacers can build on their success. But in terms of tryin to get that advantage that comes with a home playoff game, the energy's got to be sucked out a little bit when Rose is fouled and the crowd cheers.
And I thought this was the first time in a while that Joakim Noah looked like his old self again. The rebounding has been there all-along, but tonight Joakim was a real threat in the half-court set, willing to drive and launch the tornado. And while the Bulls won't get another true ballhandler to help Rose, an active Noah can fill that role admirably for a big man.
via Slightly different story, but same ending: Defense, physical play, and another close Bulls victory - Blog a Bull.
It's baffling that Hibbert isn't more aggressive. Hibbert's actually done really well against Noah when he's elected to give the effort in going at him. But instead he takes a step back. And if you take a step back against Joakim Noah, he'll own you, your house, your block, your zipcode and county. Noah's relentless and he's starting to get his legs back under him from injury moment by moment. The stronger he gets, the tougher the Bulls are low. He even hit a mid-range jumper. If he gets back to full strength, the Bulls are a whole other animal because he can cover for Boozer's weaknesses. Speaking of Hibbert...
The starting frontline wasn’t as effective, combining for 6-24 shooting for 16 points and 12 rebounds. Roy Hibbert continued to have trouble settling into any kind of rhythm, and Tyler Hansbrough once again had trouble getting his midrange jumper to start falling again. Hansbrough did make some solid plays down the stretch, grabbing 4 of his 5 rebounds on the offensive glass.
via Chicago Bulls 88, Indiana Pacers 84: Pacers Play Tough Yet Again, But It's Still Not Enough to Avoid 3-0 Hole - Indy Cornrows.


Hibbert's problem is largely asserting himself into position, and maintaining it. Instead, he'll start a game strong, then totally vanish into the background for the rest of the game. Hibbert can neutralize the Bulls' biggest advantage in this series, or rather, could have, but simply chose to fade. Take the last Pacers possession for example. Hibbert drifted to 16 feet for a spot-up J, instead of attacking the glass for a tip-in. That's the difference in this series. It's not fair to put it all on one player, but in reality, Hibbert could have been the difference maker, and instead was just part of the scenery. 
Ultimately, once again, in the midst of what is, and always was, probably an un-winnable series in terms of talent, Game 3 showed shades of what Pacers fans should be excited about in the years to come. The Bulls as a cohesive team are so far beyond where the Pacers are right now that talking about the clutch stuff, the times when good teams loaded with talent truly separate themselves from those middling squads with some guts, isn’t all that relevant here.

Derrick did what no one on the Pacer is able to do. Granger isn’t capable of that stuff. And everyone else on this roster is so incapable of it that mentioning them by name isn’t even necessary.
via Pacers Drop Game 3 But Validate Playoff Berth.

They key for the Pacers is that they have a bunch of guys they hope will become that player, but no clear option A. And usually option A.'s are pretty apparent. Darren Collison seems like he might be able to, but it would take a pretty big jump. Danny Granger is no longer the young, developing raw player he once was. Hibbert we've covered. Tyler Hansbrough? No. So even though the Pacers have a great core, they miss that star player. Ask the Rockets how that works out long-term. 
Here was a scene from the postgame locker room that captured the essence of a team still fighting through an ungainly adolescence. Roy Hibbert, who just hasn't taken advantage of a good matchup with Joakim Noah in this series, stood in the corner and groused about how he wasn't getting the ball often enough in the low post.

Next to him, veteran Dahntay Jones sat in his chair and, overhearing Hibbert, shook his head.

"He's young,'' he said. "He'll learn. They'll all learn. It's a progression. But we've grown a lot these last few weeks.''

The lesson is, you can't complain about a lack of low-post touches when you shoot a mushy 3-for-12 and take zero free throws. Hibbert is the most likable personality on this team and has shown flashes, but he's got to be tougher if this team is going to break through in the years to come.
via Close might have to be good enough | The Indianapolis Star | indystar.com.

Dahntay Jones showed the kind of aggression Hibbert has needed this entire series, and didn't see time until tonight. He was the biggest reason the Pacers took the lead in the second half. You have to wonder why it took Vogel so long to go to a defensive wing with experience when he's been so willing to feed George to the wolves. Meanwhile, Hibbert wanting the ball is great. But he has to be more aggressive when he gets it. That 25 percent from the field is largely due to his hesitation in the post, waitin for help to come and Noah or Thomas to adjust. It can't be that hard for him to score. Dude's 7-2 for crying out loud. 
Rose can play better. But he can’t close better.

On a 4-for-18 night when his jumpshot wasn’t falling, when even his drives were rolling off the rim, he got to the free-throw line. And he made 13 of 15 foul shots.

‘‘Derrick’s going to work the game,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘He’s not going to get discouraged. He missed some good looks, but you can count on him late. He went into an attack mode. He kept driving. He got to the line. He’s a tough competitor. He’s going to do whatever we need him to do.’’
via Another strong finish by Derrick Rose leaves Pacers frustrated - Chicago Sun-Times.

 Rose is eventually going to get worn down taking these hits and going to the rim over and over again. It's happened to every great player. He'll adjust and still be a great player, a transcendent one. But until then, even when Rose has a terrible game, you can count on his ability to get to the line. And if they don't foul him?

Series, blouses. 



Posted on: April 21, 2011 10:07 pm
Edited on: April 22, 2011 12:12 am
 

Bulls take 3-0 lead, but not on Rose's shoulders

Posted by Royce Young



It's a lesson every team learns at some point in the postseason. Your star simply cannot do it all. Someone else has to step up. It's just about the oldest playoff adage.

For the Bulls, Luol Deng was a no-brainer. But Kyle Korver? Kyle Korver is now the Bulls big shot taker and maker?

Korver knocked down two more massive 3s late in Chicago's 88-84 Game 3 win over the Pacers. During the three games, Korver is 7-8 from deep. In big moments, the Bulls space out, let Derrick Rose isolate and look for a kickout to Korver. Who would've thought that would be Chicago's best crunch-time option?

But without Korver (12) and Deng's (21) secondary scoring, the Bulls are long gone in this one. I'm not going to sugarcoat it -- Derrick Rose stunk. He went just 4-18 from the floor and 2-6 from 3. Once again, he attacked the rim mercilessly which got him to the line 15 times. Thirteen of those trips were makes, and he finished with 23 points, but Rose was far from excellent.

Rose's game will be overlooked because a) the Bulls won and b) he made the game-winning shot with 15 seconds left. But he just wasn't very good in this game. There's no way around it. Not only was he missing shots, but he turned the ball over five times and only had two assists. Fawn over his layup to win it if you will, but, please realize, Derrick Rose is not the reason Chicago won this game.

Really, it was kind of a solid explanation as to why some were anti-MVP with Rose. It wasn't at all about Rose's game as much as it was about Chicago's stifling defense. The Pacers, who are a solid scoring outfit, notched only 84 points on 37.9 percent shooting, including 1-10 from 3. This is a Pacer team that loves to fire the 3, and the fact they only made one says something about Chicago's perimeter defense.

Here's a small secret though: Rose has not shot the ball very well at all so far this postseason. He's shooting just 37.8 percent from the field and 4-20 from 3. Take away his free throw dominance and he goes from apparently dominating the series to being incredibly average. On top of that, his assist-to-turnover is 14 to 14. Not very good.

That sounds like a dig at Rose, but it's not intended to be. Without him, the Bulls aren't up 3-0. Not even close. But let's not get overly worked up about Rose's first-round performance here. He hit a big, late-game shot in Game 3, and scored 75 points in the first two games. He's been pretty good.

But the Bulls are winning because the Pacers have no idea how to execute in the fourth quarter, they can't rebound, Korver has been huge, and, tonight, Luol Deng stepped up. Keep in mind that this is a 37-win Pacer team against the best record in the NBA. Yes, the Bulls lead 3-0, but it's just by a combined 15 points. By no means is this panic talk from me, because I definitely don't believe in that stuff, especially when you're winning, but I don't think the Bulls or Rose would tell you they're happy about how these first three games have gone. I think they all expected more.

At the same time, it could be a good sign. To get major, key crunch-time performances from players not named Derrick is huge for Chicago. Especially when you picture a series versus Orlando or Miami. Korver is notorious for coming back to Earth after a great stretch of games, but just having that threat on the floor is big for Chicago. And, if Deng shows up like this consistently, between Rose and the defense, the Bulls will be fine.

Which is all that matters really. The Bulls have never claimed it to be pretty. They just give you results.
Posted on: April 21, 2011 4:13 pm
 

Noah: Hansbrough is not a dirty player

Joakim Noah understands why Tyler Hansbrough is fouling Derrick Rose hard, says he's not a dirty player. It's not cool, but, you know, it's cool.
Posted by Matt Moore




Joakim Noah has a habit of not getting along with tough power forwards. Kevin Garnett, for example, Noah pegged as "mean." But Tyler Hansbrough, who took som flak from Chicago players and fans after delivering a hard foul to Derrick Rose in Game 2, doesn't think that "the 'Brough" qualifies as a dirty player. Although he is willing to add doubt as to Psycho T's (worst nickname ever) hygeine. From ESPN Chicago: 
When asked before Thursday morning's shootaround if Hansbrough is a dirty player, Noah said: "Like dirty as in he doesn't take showers?"

It's obvious Noah doesn't believe Hansbrough is a cheap shot artist.

"I don't think so," he said. "I just think it's the way the game's played right now. It's just the way it goes. Nothing easy to the basket. And when you have a little point guard going in there every time the way Derrick's going in, you don't want to be on a highlight reel, so you've got to give a hard foul. It's just the way of the game. Sometimes, yeah, it's frustrating because you never want Derrick getting hit like that, but it is the name of the game right now."
via Noah: Hansbrough not a dirty player - Chicago Bulls Blog - ESPN Chicago.

Hansbrough looks pretty shiny, but that could be grease from not showering, I suppose. It's nice that Noah's reasonable about the fouls being given to Rose. If you're going to go the basket every single time with relentless intensity and brilliant finishing ability, the NBA is going to foul you hard. That's how this whole playoffs thing works. And were Rose on the other side, it would be Joakim Noah delivering those kinds of fouls, and not feeling bad about it. 

Because it sure as heck wouldn't be Boozer giving them. He might try, but it would only result in an and-one highlight reel. And yelling. Lots of yelling. 

That said, it's not like the Pacers have really hacked at Rose all that much. To do so would mean they would have to catch up to him first. And in general, even when he's running right at them, they seem unable to get a lock on him as he spins around and scores again and again. We'll have to see if Noah continues to have this attitude when it's Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, or ... Joel Anthony (?) sending Rose to the floor as the playoffs advance. 
Posted on: April 21, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: April 21, 2011 2:22 pm
 

Series Reset: It's now or next year for Indiana

Posted by Royce Young



The Narrative:
So close. I mean so, so close for the Pacers. They would probably trade T.J. Ford and a bag of money to be bringing back a tied series to Indianpolis, but they weren't far off from holding a 2-0 lead. Instead, things are exactly where we expected. Down 2-0 to the superior Bulls, it's pretty obvious that the Pacers have to win this game. It would be a pretty substantial victory for Indiana to take one playoff win with them to the offseason, but this feels like a sweep if it doesn't happen tonight.

The Hook: Will Darren Collison play? He's a game-time decision as it stands now, but if Indiana wants any legitimate shot, they need a healthy Collison. He adds so much and not just in terms of solid point guard play. Collison is a scorer, a creator, a defender and a leader for the Pacers.

He's not the type of player that will take over a game by any means, but it's more a function of process of elimination for the Pacers. Subtract Collison and that means it's all A.J. Price, all the time. Indiana's just not winning if that happens.

The Adjustment:
Here's something: rebound the darn ball. The Bulls have completely crushed Indiana on the glass in the first two games. The Bulls haven't been that great offensively, but because of 41 offensive rebounds, the Bulls have had plenty of extra opportunities to let Derrick Rose kill the Pacers. I don't see an adjustment coming for Indiana in this department mainly because the Pacers just don't have the horses inside to compete on the boards with Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.

The Bulls are much better than the Pacers already but any time a team is getting 20 offensive boards in a game, it's near impossible to win. And yet there the Pacers were in both games. If they can keep the rebounding margin to 10 and limit the Bulls on the offensive glass, maybe there's a chance.

The X-Factor: The Pacers are going to be searching for one tonight. That's the best way underdogs win is because someone unexpected elevates their game and has a big night. In Game 1, the Pacers almost pulled off the win because of Tyler Hansbrough. But he was a non-factor in Game 2.

Who is the prime candidate to possibly make a difference tonight? How about Roy Hibbert, who has been a bit inconsistent so far in this series? The Pacers want to beat you by outshooting you on the perimeter, but what makes them pretty solid is when Hibbert has things working inside. He's good enough to score on Noah one-on-one, but he hasn't been able to get going and the Pacers sort of stopped looking for him in both games. Indiana has failed to execute late and the best medicine for that are easy baskets and Hibbert can give you those.

I'll throw out Paul George as a potential impact player too just because he's done well defending Rose in stretches. And with the way the Bulls are operating, if you can stop Rose, you can win.

The Sticking Point:
It's really hard to get past the fact that it just feels like Indiana missed its opportunity. The Bulls aren't going to continue to coast for long. They are plain and simple much better than the Pacers. And they have Derrick Rose, which is quite the trump card in itself.

Lose tonight and it's time to start thinking about the draft. You're not digging yourself out of a 2-0 hole most likely anyway, but you're definitely not coming out of a 3-0 one against Rose and Tom Thibodeau. If the Pacers have any thought to try and get back to Chicago for one more game, they have to take this one. Just doesn't feel very likely though.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com