(Sort of) Live Blog: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls

Anyone who tuned into Chicago’s five game victory over Indiana in the first round of last year’s playoffs knows what this game means.  It’s not just a good matchup between a division’s first and second place teams, or even a great one pitting the establishment against an up-and-comer.

Jan 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) holds the ball against Indiana Pacers point guard Darren Collison (2) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

No, this is a rivalry, and rivalry games mean more.  More to the players, more to the coaches, more to the fans, more to the cities.

And it was such even before Indy’s win over the Bulls on the United Center floor in late January.  Before the young Pacers celebrated as if they’d made a statement, and before Derrick Rose said this in response: “I haven’t forgotten about anything.  I remember that… I’ll never forgot how they celebrated for winning this game.  I can’t wait to play them again.”

Yeah.  This one is definitely a good choice for Saving the Skyhook’s weekly (Sort of) Live Blog.

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Prediction: The Bulls are the better team, the home team, and Derrick Rose is extra motivated.  Chicago, though, is on the second leg of a tough back-to-back while the Pacers had Sunday off.  All things considered, I can’t go against Thibodeau’s boys in this one: 91-85, Bulls over Pacers.

Matchup to Watch: This isn’t a positional battle so much as it is how the Pacers defend Rose.  In the playoffs last year they used the length of Paul George to bother him with some success and clogged the lane daring other Bulls to beat them.  Here’s hoping they try the same, so we can get an accurate gauge of improvements made by George, Rose, and Chicago’s ancillary parts.

First Quarter:

  • Part of me wishes the Bulls had abandoned the MJ/Phil era introduction music.  Then I notice the jerseys of Michael and Scottie hanging from the rafters and get goosebumps.
  • Collison starts on Rose.  Not sure how long than can last.
  • Sloppy, sloppy start.  Three badly missed shots and a couple bad turnovers.
  • Just like that, the oft-injured Rip Hamilton goes to the locker room with what might be a separated shoulder.  This is one of the many reasons why I thought they should’ve been more aggressive targeting a younger, more viable SG in the off-season.
  • George has some craft to his game that can’t be acquired.  Once he tightens his handle he’ll be really good #statingtheobvious
  • Hibbert picks up his second foul hacking Noah on a spinning, lefty hook.  Yikes.
  • 8-2 Bulls, by the way.
  • It’s got to the point now that I’m surprised every time a block is called instead of a charge even if it’s obvious.  Clearly been watching too much college basketball.
  • Ronnie Brewer looks so much more confident shooting the ball this year.  Good to see.
  • Both teams settling in on offense now.  13-12 Chicago.
  • This is one of those times I’m hating the League Pass Broadband/NBA TV/Cable folks.  Would love to be able to catch OKC-Dallas.
  • Hansbrough stops the ball on offense more than any reserve big in the league.  That’s bad.
  • Noah making me eat my words with a spinning lefty hook from a tough, tough angle.
  • 22-20 Chicago at the end of a quarter that saw eight lead changes.
Second Quarter:
  • It’s the Lou Amundson show.  How many times this season will he score on successive possessions?
  • JL3 has nine points.  Wish he had three more inches.
  • 31-26 Bulls.
  • I really thought George Hill would make more of an impact for Indy.  In flashes his natural scoring talent is so evident.
  • …as he hits a three to get to 10 points.  35-32 Bulls with 5:24 left in the half.
  • Indy’s doing a great job forcing Rose to make plays for others.  Their length as help defenders is a big factor there.
  • He’s got two points on 1-8 with four assists.  That’s a formula to beat the Bulls if I’ve ever seen one.
  • Tie game, 38-38 with 2:42 left.  First time this quarter.
  • Pacers get the lead on two FTs from George.
  • Turnovers are killing the Bulls right now.
  • Indy ran a great set to get George an open three as clock hit zeros, but he couldn’t connect. 43-42 Pacers at the half.

    Jan 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Indiana Pacers shooting guard Paul George (24) shoots the ball over Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose (1) during the first half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

First Half Stats:
  • Rose: 1-9, 2 points, 4 assists
  • Deng: 1-7, 7 points, 4 rebounds
  • Noah: 2-3, 6 points, 8 rebounds
  • Lucas: 4-5, 9 points
  • George: 4-6, 11 points
  • Granger: 4-8, 9 points
  • West: 2-6, 6 points, 7 rebounds
  • Hill: 4-7, 10 points
  • Chicago: 16-41, 39% – Indy: 17-41, 41.5%
  • 26 rebounds (8 offensive) – 18 rebounds (3 offensive)
  • 8 assists – 12 assists
  • 7 turnovers – 4 turnovers
A low-scoring affair was definitely expected, but it’s shocking nonetheless to see Rose struggling as he is.  He’s having trouble getting to the rim and even when he does, Indy’s doing a good job of bothering him with length by going straight up.  Hibbert picked up three fouls in the first half and is scoreless, so expect the Pacers to try to get him going early.  Assuming the Bulls pick it up offensively, the original prediction of a 91-85 Chicago win is looking pretty good.
Third Quarter:
  • Indy is getting really good shots on offense right now.  They’re up 47-44.
  • Quick 6-0 run for the Bulls.  Indy may need a timeout.
  • Yup.  Rose hits a three.  53-47 Pacers.  Vogel should have listened to me.
  • I know he’s 7’2”, but Hibbert’s just so slow to jump and get rebounds out of his area.
  • Eight in a row for Rose.  Uh-oh.  58-51 Bulls.
  • Indy is trying to play fast and it’s coming back to bite them.  They’re struggling to convert on the move and are really sloppy with the ball right now.
  • Deng’s hit successive threes, latter of which was a 27 footer.  64-51 Bulls as Vogel calls another timeout.
  • Hill hits a three to quell the Chicago outburst.  He needs to play and Collison’s been invisible.  Problem meet solution.  I don’t care how few minutes he’s logged there this season.
  • Is there a louder frontcourt in the NBA than Boozer-Noah? Not in terms of actual words, but ‘ahhing’ on contact with the opposition and rebounds.
  • Rose’s balance looks so good from three right now.  Chicago’s 5-5 from distance this quarter.  72-54 Indy.  This got out of hand quickly.
  • Absolutely dominant quarter for Bulls and Rose.  They’re 75-56 after outscoring the Pacers 33-13 in the third.  An exciting game is no longer.
Fourth Quarter:
  • Indy shot-clock violation.  Ugh.
  • There’s not much to say about this, unfortunately.
  • In fact, let’s switch over to OKC-Dallas for the finish of that one.  Wait… ****!
Final Score: Chicago 92 Indianapolis 72
Reaction: This was playing out much like these teams’ playoff games of last season until Chicago opened it up with a barrage of three pointers in the third quarter.  Still, each team will no doubt take much from the way they played in the first half, chiefly the ugly play of Rose.  Should these two meet again come Spring, there’s no reason to believe the outcome will be any different than 2011′s.  Having said that, it wouldn’t be easy for Chicago just like it wasn’t back then.

 

 

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