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.