The Indiana Pacers came out of Game 1 — where they led until the final minute and almost pulled the upset — thinking that they can play with the Chicago Bulls.
But can they? The Bulls can play much better than they did in game one — look for them to focus on tightening the pick-and-roll defense (especially when Tyler Hansbrough is setting the pick) and for Derrick Rose to be in attack mode early.
The Bulls took the Pacers best shot — literally, the Pacers shot lights out all game (10-of-17 from three, for example) and put up 113.7 points per 100 possessions, 13 more than the Bulls gave up on average — and one has to wonder if the Pacers can play any better. And if that was their best and they lost, what hope do they have?
The Pacers hinted they are going to start aggressively doing what the Bulls will see from here on out in the playoffs — trapping and doubling Derrick Rose to get the ball out of his hands.
We’ll see what kind of success they have — it’s easier said than done to trap Rose. But if they do the Bulls are going to need other players to step up in a way they did not in Game 1. Carlos Boozer had a quiet 12 points and he has to step up, as does Luol Deng who had a couple big baskets late but not much else. The Bulls bench also needs to contribute more.
Put simply, the Derrick Rose show is one of the best going in the NBA, but ask Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant — or just about anyone else — if you can do it all on your own or if you need a real team effort.
Another key will be how this game is called — both teams want to be physical on defense, but Rose’s ability to attack and draw contact and get to the line could swing this game. Like it did the first one, where Rose alone got to the line more than the entire Pacers team.
The Bulls are going to defend hard
DeMar DeRozan drains game winner to cap 37-point night, Raptors beat Knicks 92-91
With Kyle Lowry out until around the start of the playoffs, a lot is going to be asked of DeMar DeRozan. Monday night at Madison Square Garden, he delivered.
The Raptors needed a bucket as time ran down, not only got the ball to DeRozan but got the switch so Derrick Rose was guarding him, and that allowed the Raptors star to get to his spot, rise up and bury the midrange jumper for the win.
It capped off an impressive 37-point night for DeRozan — he’s going to need to do more of this in the coming weeks.
Kevin Hart rings bell before start of Sixers game vs. Warriors
Michael Beasley was getting back up court to try and defend a LeBron James drive to the basket early in the clock Monday night when he took an awkward step and appears to hyperextend his knee. You can see the video above. He tried to leave the floor under his own power but had to be helped back to the locker room by teammates.
Beasley has been solid off the bench for the Bucks this season, averaging 9.7 points a game with a and with a PER of 17.6 (above the league average). They would miss him in the rotation as they try to make a playoff push if he has to miss any time.
Kevin Durant on return to Washington D.C. that never was: “I really just didn’t want to play at home”
A year or two ago, there was a palpable buzz among Wizards fans — they had a shot to get Kevin Durant. LeBron James had just returned like a prodigal son to Cleveland, and there seemed to be a sense from fans that other stars wanted to go home to play. The Wizards needed another star, they had the cap space, so some saw a path for Durant to return to his native D.C.
Except, a lot of players don’t want to go home again. Not to play.
“I don’t want to open up anything in the past, but I really just didn’t want to play at home,” Durant said. “It was nothing about the fans. Being at home, I was so happy with that part of my life — playing at home, being in front of friends, hanging with friends and family every day. That was a part of my life that has come and gone.
“I was like, I’m trying to build a second part of my life as a man living in a different part of the country, just trying to do different things. I did everything I was supposed to do in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, I felt. Now it’s time to do something new. I didn’t want to come back. That’s just my thought process behind it. It had nothing to do with basketball, the fans, the city.”
Not every Wizards fan will see it this way, but that’s an entirely reasonable thought process. Sometimes in life, we need a change of direction, and for Durant this would have been a step back into the past. The one he made to go to Golden State has worked out pretty well for him so far.
KD is not alone in this. Players see a lot of added stress returning home, both in terms of expectations and the demands of family and friends (asking for tickets, etc.), and some are just not into the idea of a return. The idea that Blake Griffin wants to return to Oklahoma and play for the Thunder may not fit with who he is right now. Russell Westbrook seems to like it in OKC and isn’t itching to get back to Los Angeles (but Paul George might be). Each player is a different case — how they view their hometown, whether they would want to play for the team there — and each will make his decision.