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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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.