Derrick Rose after injuring his left ankle in the second quarter. This photo will not sell well in Chicago. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
2 Total Updates since April 23, 2011
about 2 years ago Commentary 0 commentsContinue
about 2 years ago Update 0 comments
Three cheers for a wildly entertaining game, even if the result wasn't what the Bulls were looking for. If Carlos Boozer hits that three-pointer and the Bulls end up coming all the way back, this game goes down as an all-timer.
As it is, it's a shock it was even close, and that's after three straight games of comebacks by the Chicago Closers, I mean Bulls.
The biggest story moving forward, and there are many, will be the status of Derrick Rose's sprained left ankle, which he rolled on a drive in the 2nd quarter. He came back to play nearly the entire second half but was clearly favoring it the stretch, lacking burst on a crucial late layup that was blocked by Darren Collison.
With 3:45 and facing a seemingly insurmountable 15-point deficit, Chicago flipped the switch and began yet another unreal comeback. If you factor in an early fourth quarter 3-pointer that Kyle Korver had waved off later during a timeout, one could argue the Bulls knew exactly how long to wait to make their run. Instead, the Bulls 38% from the floor and zero fastbreak points ended up being too much to overcome.
Rose, Boozer and Luol Deng combined to go 16-51 from the floor. Rose clearly wasn't the same after the injury, staying out of the paint on most possessions. Deng finished with 16 points and had a huge and-1 bucket late. Despite his poor shooting, Deng, Korver and Joakim Noah combined to give the Bulls a shot in the end.
One of the few rays of sunshine from this loss is that Noah is all the way back from injury, finishing with 21 points and 14 rebounds, seven of them offensive. However his foul trouble caused Thibodeau to keep him on the bench for almost six minutes late in the fourth quarter. I wouldn't have kept the Bulls' best player today on the bench that long, but it's fair to say Thibs might know a little more about the game than I.
Boozer on the other hand is going to be Cutler-ized over the next 48 hours for yet another rough performance. Personally I thought Boozer played well, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds, but take into account that I've penciled him in for around five turnovers a game. I suggest you do it as well, as it makes him much more enjoyable to watch. Korver had nine points and actually became a focal point of the offense for a few minutes as Rose couldn't run the show as much as usual. Maybe with Thibs switching up his lineups so much in the postseason, maybe he'll actually consider starting Korver over Bogans. Ha.
Hard to know how to feel, as the Bulls continue to turnover the ball at will and melt down on offense early in games, only to play a Jedi mind trick late that almost, almost, makes you forget how badly they played earlier. Indiana finally matched Chicago on the boards, with Roy Hibbert finally showing up in the series and ultimately being a difference-maker. Dependable Danny Granger gave what he always does, leading the Pacers with 24 points and ten boards. Rookie Paul George has grown up a lot in this series, and along with Dahntay Jones' thuggish relief they have largely contained Rose in Games 3 and 4. Both team rebounds and points in the paint were nearly even, and after 11 first half turnovers, Chicago protected the ball better in the 2nd half as both teams finished with 14.
And so, back to the United Center, where the Bulls will try and close out the Pacers on Tuesday night. Struggle as Chicago has in these first four games, there is something to be said for actually losing and how it can steel a team's resolve. That and getting back to some solid NBA home-cookin' from the referees should be enough to send the Bulls to the second round for the first time since 2006-2007.
As long as Derrick Rose is as good a healer as he is a basketball player.
about 2 years ago Update 0 comments
Indiana's strategy has been predicated on playing physical, specifically towards Derrick Rose. The result has been three grinding, mostly boring games, kind of like a boxing match without the punches. There was a time in Game 3 where I just wanted to fast-forward to the last five minutes to see how it ended. Ugly or not, the grabbing, checking and occasional elbow have allowed the less-talented Pacers chances to win each of the series' first three games.
On Friday, the NBA announced it was upgrading Pacers' center Jeff Foster's two hard fouls, one on Luol Deng and the other an elbow to Rose's face, to flagrant-1's.
Foster will not be suspended, but the subject of goon-ish play has become the focus of this series going into Game 4. When Foster hit Deng and later Rose, Bulls' broadcasters Stacey King and Scottie Pippen called for retaliation from the team, with Pippen going so far as to visit the locker room after the game, apparently to deliver his message. Kyle Korver responded in an interview with ESPN 1000's Waddle and Silvy that he appreciated Pippen's passion, but that the game has changed.
"I agree with everything he is saying but we can't just go out there and hammer somebody. You watch the highlights of the old days and guys getting their heads taken off and fights or whatever. If you do that now you're suspended three or four games, you're fined incredible amounts of money. The league has really cut down on that stuff."
Certainly the Bulls aren't going to tolerate anything egregious, and there's always a chance that team enforcer Kurt Thomas throws a few in-game elbows Saturday just to let Foster know that his actions didn't go unnoticed. Not gonna lie, I wouldn't be mad if he did. But the truth is, the Pacers have played hard playoff basketball within the rules of the game. Thibodeau's team knows that the best way to fight back is to send Indiana fishing.
Carlos Boozer has seen some tough text in these pages, and while his four-point, three-turnover, two-blocks allowed performance on Thursday did little to change that stance, perhaps some of the criticism was unfair. Superstar that Derrick Rose is, his skills as a passer pale in comparison to Boozer's former teammate Deron Williams, specifically in running the pick and roll. Boozer's shooting percentage as the roll man is down almost 14% from last year with the Jazz.
Rose does not yet have that innate sense of where to deliver the ball so Boozer can score. That's a chemistry thing, but it's the soon-to-be MVP's struggle just as much as it is Boozer's. For all the things he does at an elite level, Rose's ability to involve his teammates and deliver the ball where they like it is something to improve. One look at his career improvement in three-point percentage or free throw percentage has to make you think he'll get better. After all, as good as they are, It's sometimes easy to forget that Rose is only 22, these Bulls have only played together for one season, and in Rose and Boozer's case much less because of injury.
Noah, on the other hand, is starting to look like his old self, which has resulted in not only better defense, but offense as well. He even unleashed a tornado from the elbow in Game 3, the first I can remember since he hurt his thumb. Noah's length and activity fixes a lot of defensive mistakes, including a crucial defensive stop with the game tied at 84 that set up Rose's game winning drive on the following possession. He and Deng are the cornerstones of the Chicago defense.
The Pacers have used rookie Paul George and veteran reserve Dahntay Jones to guard Derrick Rose with increasing success as the series has gone on. Rose shot 43% in Game 1 and 2, and only 22% in Game 3. The Pacers mix of half-court traps and swarming on drives have given other teams a blueprint to guard Rose, although not every team has a pair of athletic perimeter defenders as Indiana does.
As the Pacers swapped George onto Rose and hid Darren Collison on either Keith Bogans or Ronnie Brewer, Thibodeau countered by using Kyle Korver at shooting guard. As chronicled by SI's Zach Lowe, the strategy has been a masterstroke of in-series adjustment by Thibs, as Korver has been free to shoot over the smaller Collison, making the Pacers pay for the defensive switch. As noted after Game 3, Korver is 5-6 from 3 for the series, and after hitting the key basket in both Games 1 and 2, his presence on the floor at the end of Thursday's game created the driving lane for Rose's game-winning layup.
At this point both teams' strategies are out in the open, and Game 4 will be more about execution than adjustments. The Bulls will try to play inside out and make the Pacers look beyond Danny Granger and Collison. The Pacers will try to contain Rose with length and by knocking him around when he comes in the lane. With the Magic and Hawks headed for an long series, the Bulls could steal a few extra days rest and say goodbye to a pesky, but worthy opponent.
Tip-off at Conseco Fieldhouse is at 1:30 CDT on CSN Chicago, and also nationally on TNT.