The Indiana Pacers were able to put up yet another great fight against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, but they were once again left with nothing to show for their valiant effort.
In game one of the series, the Pacers took the Bulls down to the wire because of their sharp jump shooting. The Pacers didn’t shoot the ball nearly as well from outside as they did in game one, but their defense was able to frustrate the Bulls for long stretches of the game.
On paper, Derrick Rose’s final line doesn’t look much different than it did in game one, as he finished with an impressive 36 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists. But the Pacers’ decision to guard Rose with bigger defenders, particularly Paul George, forced Rose to work much harder for his points than he did in game one, and he required 25 shots and 13 free throw attemtps to get his ponits. In Game one, Rose got to the rim or the line at will, only made one shot from outside of 15 feet, and only turned the ball over three times. In game two, 10 of Rose’s 36 points came on jumpers, and he turned the ball over six times.
Indiana caught a seriously bad break when Darren Collison went down with an injury in the first half and subsequently missed the rest of the game. Sophomore guard A.J. Price did a decent job filling in for Collison, but he’s not the same caliber of player, and the Pacers were outscored by 12 points with Collison off the floor.
Fortunately for Chicago, Carlos Boozer showed up in game two. He was in the paint and making baskets from all angles from both hands, was a big part of Chicago’s dominating performance on the offensive glass (Chicago had 20 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 24 defensive rebounds), and was much better on defense. However, the rest of the Bulls’ supporting cast didn’t shoot particularly well from outside, and Joakim Noah couldn’t buy a basket around the rim. Because of that, the Bulls’ offense was often stagnant on Monday, and the team finished with more turnovers than assists.
Despite the Bulls’ offensive issues, they were able to pull out a win thanks to a dominant size advantage and some timely plays down the stretch, and a win is a win in the playoffs. There’s a reason why teams jockey for home-court advantage all season long: even though the Pacers performed well beyond all possible expectations in Chicago, they are still returning to Indiana with no wins, and if they lose one more game, their season is all but over. The Pacers should be encouraged by their play in the first two games, but they will need to do just a little bit more if they want to avoid elimination.