In previewing Game 2, what would probably be most fun would be to relive the last 3:29 of game one and the Derrick Rose-fueled 16-1 run that allowed the Bulls to steal it. But since this article's goal is prognostication, the 45 minutes where the Bulls were largely outplayed must be examined just as closely.
The Pacers offense, when shots are falling, is flat-out dangerous. Their spacing Saturday was some of the best I've seen this year, and although Darren Collison has been inconsistent initiating the Pacers offense in his first year on the team, he was impressive in his playoff debut as a starter. Danny Granger is a flat-out professional, and Tyler Hansbrough's energy gave the Bulls fits inside all afternoon.
All that said, the Pacers put forth one of their best efforts of the year on a day when their shots were falling. The knock on Indiana is that their effort wanes when the iron is unkind. As we witnessed in the games final minutes, which were understandably brutal for an underdog on the road against a player who took his game into the stratosphere, the Pacers offense bogged down when the jumpers stopped going in. Without a crunch time answer to stop the massive swing in momentum from the Bulls, the Pacers simply wilted.
After the game, to absolutely no one's surprise, Tom Thibodeau had a lot to say about the Bulls defensive effort. Chicago didn't come out flat, but they didn't match Indiana's energy, which resulted in slow rotations, poor recovery on pick and rolls and most of all, bad close-outs on shots.
When the Bulls eventually did lock down on D, it was Joakim Noah's defensive energy and length that keyed the effort. As good as the season has gone for Chicago in his absence, it's easy to forget how much Noah means to the Bulls for the energy he provides. And while I hate it when writers lean on "energy" to describe a "gritty" player's value, with Noah it is almost quantifiable. He is the Bulls best two-way defender, able to guard on the perimeter and enforce in the paint. As Thibodeau has said, Chicago will need Noah at his best if they are to compete for a championship. With the long layoffs between games and only 30 minutes played on Saturday, nothing would be better for the Bulls than a classic 12-point, 14-rebound, 2-block Noah performance.
Rose scored an absolutely brilliant 39 points on Saturday, which is crazy considering he went 0-9 from distance. He was simply unstoppable off the dribble, scoring at will and hitting 19-21 from the free throw line. But going forward he will need to involve his teammates more, especially inside with Carlos Boozer and Noah. The Bulls struggled to score when he wasn't in the game Saturday, and as the team's floor leader and point guard he will need to work harder to keep the offense balanced. You saw just how effective that could be during the game's final minutes when, between his own drives to the hoop, he found Noah streaking down the lane for a dunk and then Korver for what was ultimately the game-winning shot.
Last but not least, Boozer must play well for the Bulls to ultimately succeed. And while it is up to Boozer to step up his game, Thibodeau needs to scheme plays to get Booz involved early, and his teammates need to deliver the ball where he is most comfortable. The Bulls will need his scoring and rebounding before this ride is over.
At the risk of looking silly on Tuesday, I expect Monday night's game to go in the Bulls' favor rather easily. The Pacers hit an inordinate number of jumpshots beyond 15 feet Saturday, something they'll be hard-pressed to repeat two games in a row on the road. Thibodeau has made adjustments as well as anyone in the league all year (look at the Bulls' success in 3rd quarters for evidence), and he will have a plan to keep the Pacers from a second straight night of getting to virtually any spot they wanted on the floor.
Finally, can the Bulls never, ever play another noon playoff game please? There's little more embarrassing than needing a mid-day nap after the adrenaline wore off from that crazy win.
Game 2 begins at 8:30 CDT Monday night at the United Center. CSN Chicago has the call, with national coverage also on TNT.