NBA Playoffs: Pacers manage to win a game as Rose struggles

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It wasn’t easy, but the Indiana Pacers finally managed to beat the Bulls after losing three consecutive heart-breakers. While the Pacers controlled the game most of the way, they did manage to make things interesting by allowing the Bulls to end the game on a 22-11 run, and the Bulls were one Carlos Boozer three-pointer away from tying the game with two seconds to go.

Still, the Pacers were able to hold on, and here’s the bad news for Bulls fans: The Pacers have defended Derrick Rose and the Bulls better in each game of the series than they did in the one before it.

Game 1: Rose 39 points on 10-23 shooting, Bulls score 104 poitnts

Game 2: Rose 36 points on 11-25 shooting, Bulls score 96 points

Game 3: Rose 23 points on 4-18 shooting, Bulls score 88 points

Game 4: Rose 15 points on 6-22 shooting, Bulls score 84 points

While the sprained ankle Rose suffered near the end of the first quarter was likely responsible for much of his ineffectiveness on Saturday, the fact is that the Pacers have defended Rose well ever since game one, and the Bulls’ other options have not stepped up.

Carlos Boozer was more aggressive in Game 3, but he still rushed most of his shots in the paint and failed to work effectively in the post, and ended up shooting 6-15. Luol Deng’s normally reliable jumper abandoned him, and he only made one of his six shots from outside the paint. Joakim Noah was fantastic on both ends of the floor, but he doesn’t get his points by being a primary offensive option. Chicago’s vaunted bench was outscored 17-30 by the Pacer subs, and C.J. Watson, Omer Asik, and Ronnie Brewer barely saw the court. Even though the Pacers only shot 39% in Game 3, they did enough to overcome the Bulls’ anemic offensive effort.

Assuming the Bulls will win one of the next three games and advance to the second round, the question that will define their playoff success is whether other teams will be able to defend Derrick Rose as well as the Pacers have. The Pacers have done a wonderful job on Rose, but not every team can trap and recover and mix up their coverages as well as the Pacers have; more importantly, not every team has a defensive player with Paul George’s combination of size, speed, and defensive instincts. And while credit is due to the Pacers for keeping Rose out of the paint for the most part, Rose’s improved jump shot has completely abandoned him in the playoffs — over the course of the series, Rose is only 13-50 on shots outside of the paint.

The Pacers have shown that if Rose is slowed down successfully, the Bulls don’t have the offensive firepower to compensate, and that should be a concern for the Bulls going forward. Barring a miracle, the Bulls won’t lose this series, and every matchup in the playoffs is different. But the Pacers seem to have drawn up a blueprint for how to beat the team that had the NBA’s best record in the regular season.

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PBT Extra: Disciplined Celtics highlight bad habits of Milwaukee Bucks

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Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.

Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.

The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.

I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.

Ettore Messina to coach Spurs in Game 3 following death of Gregg Popovich’s wife

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.

That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:

Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.

But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.

On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.

To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.

Report: Knicks to interview Kenny Smith for head-coaching job

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The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.

It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.

ESPN:

TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).

Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.

But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.

So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.

But at least he has that opportunity.

Pacers coach Nate McMillan slips and falls while arguing call (video)

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Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.

Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.