Tag:Danny Granger
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.
Posted on: April 20, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: April 20, 2011 11:27 am
 

Collison says he'll play if he's not 100 percent

Posted by Royce Young

The Pacers were dealt a big second half blow against the Bulls in Game 2 when point guard Darren Collison rolled his ankle on a baseline cameraman. He tried to come out for the second half but was forced to shut it down.

Coach Frank Vogel said he was "going with the mind frame that they'll be without Collison in Game 3." But Collison said he liked his chances of playing Thursday against the Bulls.

"If I'm at 60-70 percent, I'm going to play," Collison told the Indy Star. "This is the playoffs. I was disappointed I couldn't get in the game in the second half (Monday night), but it's unfortunate it happened."

Having Collison is a near must for Indiana. The Pacers nearly pulled off a Game 2 upset without him, but he's a very valuable piece to their offense, especially in crunch time situations where the Pacers have struggled.
Posted on: April 19, 2011 1:42 am
Edited on: April 19, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Pacers are drowning in the clutch against Chicago

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
 

Bulls crush the Pacers on the glass... again

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
 

Darren Collison sprains ankle on cameraman

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
 

Series Reset: Bulls have hands full with Pacers

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.)

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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
 

NBA Playoffs Pacers-Bulls: Back-breaker for Indy?

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. 

 

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And one thing to talk about is whether this is a back-breaker for the Pacers. 

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
 

NBA Playoffs Bulls-Pacers: Bulls needed the push

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.

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Here's the thing though: This was good for the Bulls. They're a heavy favorite not just to win this series, but the entire Eastern Conference. But they're young and inexperienced. They haven't played this favorite role yet. This is new. And they just got a little message in the mail from Frank Vogel and the Pacers that this is the postseason and you can't just expect to show up and advance.

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.
 
 
 
 
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