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.