Game 1 Recap: Bulls 104, Pacers 99

Whew.

Yes, that’s right. Even though this recap was delayed a day, I’m still saying “whew.” That’s how I feel…and that’s just the kind of game it was. Here are my thoughts.

First, a lot of the post-game talk was about how Chicago’s defense failed. As Rob Mahoney (writing for SI.com) put it: “Chicago may boast the top defense in the NBA this season, but it allowed Indiana to score at a rate of 113.8 points per 100 possessions in Game 1, in part because of the Bulls’ inability to disrupt the scoring balance of Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert. That combination, which scored a combined 74 points on 51 percent shooting, proved to be surprisingly stable.”

Okay, look. I will admit Game 1 wasn’t the strongest defensive showing we’ve seen from this Bulls squad. And yes, there was a stretch in the fourth quarter when I thought Carlos Boozer had been paid off to throw the game. But Collison, Granger and Hansbrough were crazy-hot from the outside. Those guys combined to shoot 12-for-22 from 16-23 feet (Hansbrough was 7-for-10) and Collison and Granger went 6-for-10 from downtown. Furthermore, Brandon Rush and A.J. Price combined to go 4-for-5 from beyond the arc.

That’s some unusually accurate long-distance shooting. And several of those shots were contested.

I concede that the Bulls can clean up their defense a little bit. But I think the Pacers were converting long field goal attempts at a much higher rate than usual — the Hoopdata numbers back this up — and I find it difficult to believe they’ll be able to shoot as well in Game 2. Particularly since I’m sure coach Tom Thibodeau will be cracking the defensive whip.

I also think the Pacers had a really good defensive game plan. They were physical and aggressive. They bullied Boozer and Joakim Noah, forcing them into a combined 6-for-16 shooting at the rim. They committed hard “playoff fouls.” They had active hands, disrupting passes and contesting shots, refusing to give up anything easy.

Basically, the Pacers played really well. I’m tempted to say they played about as well as they could possibly hope to play. And they lost.

As for the Bulls, there’s plenty of room for improvement, mostly on offense. They missed 15 shots at the rim. They went 6-for-20 from three-point range (including Derrick Rose’s gak-inducing 0-for-9). They committed 15 turnovers and gave up 24 points off those turnovers. Overall, their offensive execution was poor. That was in large part due to Indy’s aggressive D. But still.

Fortunately, the Bulls have D-Rose and the Pacers do not. Look, we all know what Derrick did: 39 points (a playoff career-high) on 10-for-23 from the field and 19-for-21 from the free throw line. In the final 4:52, Rose scored 9 points, assisted Noah on a dunk and dished to Kyle Korver for a three-pointer that gave the Bulls their first lead of the game.

Just call him The Closer.

And did the Pacers ever feel safe? Even when they went ahead 98-88 with 3:38 left?

Said Granger: “With Derrick Rose on the other team, no. It’s like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend. Every time you tell her you don’t want to talk to her, she’ll show up at your door again.”

Not exactly politically correct, but essentially accurate.

Rose is a superstar and he did what superstars do. He willed the Bulls to a win that they might not have deserved. Or, to put it another way, he stole a win away from the Pacers that they very nearly earned.

Some other thoughts:

How cool was it when Luol Deng got in Hansbrough’s face for committing a hard foul on Rose? On the one hand, Deng earning a tech during a hotly contested fourth quarter with the Bulls down 91-86 seems like a tactical error. But sometimes it’s important to set a tone. To let the other team know you won’t be intimidated and you won’t let them push your best player around. Deng isn’t what you’d call a natural leader. But standing up for Rose was a very leader-y move.

And, fortunatley, Collison bricked the technical free throw. After which Deng incited the crowd into a cheering frenzy. It was good to see.

Let’s not forget that Deng also contributed 18 points (7-for-13) and 10 rebounds.

Keith Bogans: 0-for-3 and a plus-minus score of -11 in 17 minutes. It was exactly the kind of playoff game Bulls fans have been worried about all season. I’m just sayin’.

Okay, about Boozer. Yes, his defense on Psycho T was, okay, it was dreadful. And the sequence in which Hansbrough stole the ball from Boozer followed by Boozer committing one of history’s dumbest fouls on Hansbrough’s breakaway dunk had me ready to light some torches, grab some pitchforks and assemble a mob to run Boozington out of town.

That said…Boozer’s D was, in part, affected by the fact that he was in foul trouble all night. In addition, Hansbrough was hotter than usual. Guys don’t normally shoot 7-for-10 from 16-23 feet.

Still, Carlos needs to get more physical, force Hansbrough to put the ball on the floor. Hansbrough lives for stand-still jumpers. It’s what he does. Boozer can’t give him that.

Furthermore, Boozer needs more offensive touches. Look, Rose cannot keep churning out 30-point games while driving into buzz saws every night. The Bulls need to figure out how to generate some consistent non-Rose offense. And since Boozer clearly isn’t out there for defense, it’s time to get him more involved in the offense. The Bulls need to post, re-post and re-re-post if necessary. Remember early in the season when Thibs wanted the Bulls to be an inside-out team? What happened to that?

Boozer is a proven scorer. That, along with rebounding, is why you have him on the floor.

Anyway, here’s my final word on the game. The Pacers came out relaxed and confident because they weren’t expected to win. To them, this was the first of four chances to get a win in Chicago. The pressure didn’t get to them until the final five minutes. As for the Bulls, they came out stiff and sluggish, and allowed the Pacers to set the tone.

They took Indy’s best shot. And won anyway. That could be bad news for the Pacers.

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box ScorePlay-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

21 Responses to Game 1 Recap: Bulls 104, Pacers 99

  1. AJM April 18, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    As much as D. Rose deserves props for carrying the Bulls down the stretch, what is he even DOING taking 9 three pointers in a game? Most ELITE three-point shooters don’t take that many per game, and Derrick is nowhere near good enough to be taking that many, especially when he is cold as ice. He essentially gave the ball away 9 times; I literally cringed every time he was just hovering around the perimeter, clearly looking to shoot a contested three rather than driving and creating an open look for someone else. Thibs or somebody needs to send him the message that those kind of possessions are actively harmful.

    Deng had another great all-around performance and for me, despite Rose’s 39, was the MVP of this game.

  2. lukerygh@gmail.com'
    Luke April 18, 2011 at 4:51 am #

    Keep shooting 3s Rose…. the more you shoot and avoid getting pounded on your drives, and we still win, the more you can drive the lane and take the pounding in the later rounds. No need to against the pacers…

  3. shadowjosh85@yahoo.com'
    Crazee April 18, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    Actually, it looks like favorites playing poorly is an epidemic in the first game. Only OKC played a legitimately good game, despite the slow start. The rest of the favorites…ugh.

    At least the Bulls faced an opponent that was playing above it’s level. That’s why I’m not concerned. The Pacers made shots they usually don’t make.

    Matt, what do you think of the other underdogs? I still think LA will beat NO, but I’d be concerned if I followed Orlando or San Antonio.

  4. yomomma@hotmail.com'
    Scottie Pimpin April 18, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    i wouldnt take the pacers so lightly, i wouuldnt take any team lightly, especially now, its been shown throughout the reg season that teams get hyped up to play the bulls.

    i agree, give cbooz the bull the damn ball. i’ve seen countless highlights of the pick and roll where deron williams would basically bounce pass it near his way and off he went. i see way too many times where d rose just goes at the rim, which is cool cuz you know he;s nice like that, but you got a skillfull power foward you need to use that. cbooz defense maybe suspect, but its magnified alot more when the TEAM defense plays suspect. and 24 points off turnovers ? , ouch, thats a recipe for an L.

    with the MVP’s 39 (im lookin at u skip bayless), luols tech, noahs crazy gun in holster celebration thing at the end…im getting good vibes for game 2

    BULLS !!!!

  5. bodybagsteven@gmail.com'
    BFD April 18, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Another thing I noticed, was that CJ Watson started to take after Pargo there. Half the time when he touched the ball, he’d try to score on some ridiculous driving layup or contested jumper early in the clock. I hope that was a one time thing and not a sign of things to come from the bench mob.

    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with everything that you just said there Matt. I’d call Deng’s Tech the equivalent of a hockey fight. Some goon on there team tries to mess with our best guy? Show him who is boss while pumping up the crowd and the rest of the team.

  6. skelks@gmail.com'
    Kelks April 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    I’m actually not sure why people are so surprised D took 9 treys. I’m not saying he SHOULD be taking those shots. But he’s been doing that all year. And why? Lack of a shooting guard. What I’ve noticed more recently is that our players have been more scared to shoot the ball. Deng hesitated several times during that game when he had an open look. In a a typical game, Derrick is then forced to put up a 3 or a long 2. He chose to put up all 3s in this last one. Please also note 2 of D’s 9 3-pointers were “desperation threes” at the end of the 1st and 2nd quarters. He was really 0-for-7. I know, I know, not much better :)

    Also, did Deng slash once into the paint during that game? Did that suddenly disappear from his game?

  7. inkybreath@gmail.com'
    inkybreath April 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    Yes, no worries about this series, overall. But there are some interesting issues.

    Listen, Boozer has had a case of the happy-handles for awhile now. I am surprised it has gotten this far. I will say this – Boozy is prideful and hyper-talkative on the court. He actually needs to play well in order to talk his mess, so I expect him to play better tonight. He cannot let Tyler get the best of him in this series, even if the Bulls win overall.

    Boozington needs to go right into the Brad Miller Pump-Fake School of Martial Arts and he will be fine.

    (Also, two of the 3 pointers from Rose were heaves, so it is 7 for the game.)

  8. Inception April 18, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    DRose really attempted 6 legit three’s! ….3 of the shots were last-second half-full court shots.

  9. doubleaccord@gmail.com'
    Tony C. April 18, 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    I will be extremely surprised if the Bulls do not win tonight’s game handily.

  10. Gridiron2393@gmail.com'
    Gridiron2393 April 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Matt do you have a twitter handle?

  11. bscholtens@hotmail.com'
    Brad S. April 18, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Matt. I have been searching and listening all weekend for someone to say or write this. I got to watch the whole game (I just love the playoffs; everything is nationaly televised!) and it’s not that the Bulls were playing that poorly, but the Pacers where shooting out of their minds. But bad defense and broken offense normally lead to a few tell-tale signs. (Remember, I’ve had to watch the Pistons all season. ..ugh!) Those signs were not evident in this game. The Pacers were not consistantly scoring inside, they didn’t get a ton of fast breaks, and the Bulls won the rebound war handily. Generally that is a perfect recipe for an easy victory, but the Pacers simply would not miss from long range. I don’t necissarily blame that on poor defense, just really hot shooting by the opposing team. That was my take from the game, but until I read this column, that’s not how the national pundits summarized it.

    On another note: Boozington has been playing like garbage for a number of games now. …Just dumb basketball. He needs to take a long look in the mirror and fix this.

    Lastly, I take my hat off to the Pacers and their coach. Vogel game-planned a heck of a game, and his team played their guts out. Usually I find myself hating the opposing team in the playoffs, but they have a few players that I really like and covet. (No, not you Danny Granger!)

  12. reggiemcglory@yahoo.com'
    chitown4life April 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

    Wow comments about Rose taking too many three, that was sad. rose needs to have more support from his tema plain and simple if they do not rise up and play as a team then they will lose as a team.
    I am so looking forward to tonights game i know the Bulls will win and they also will blow the pacers out tonight my score bulls win by over 20 pts.
    Last but not least so what Rose went to the line 20 tims he should have probally went another 20 times and at the very least got one flagrant foul called on his behalf cause they were surely out to if not hurt him foul him hard. Physco hans somebody needs to knock hm the heck out again the way he went head hunting at Rose glad to see deng step up more Bulls need to send that msge not only for this series but for the up coming ones as well set the tone Bulls do yr thing DoAll Deng D Rose and boozer.
    Korver should be in the game more to space the floor to give Rose more lanes to Drive the Ball plain and simple and he be ready for the kick out for open shot.
    Go bulls Peace

  13. hellajax@gmail.com'
    BULL4EVER April 18, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    The next 3 games won’t even be anywhere close, especially when we will blow them out in every of the next 3 games.Chicago didn’t even play good enough defense in the first game, but the Bulls came through when they had to because great teams have always come through just when they had to — and this Bulls team is a true eventual champion and the heart of an eventual champion, according to the way they have always played the entire season. GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale April 18, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

    “Also, did Deng slash once into the paint during that game? Did that suddenly disappear from his game?”

    According to the advanced box score from Hoopdata — check the link at the bottom of the post — Deng was 4-for-4 at the rim.

    “Matt do you have a twitter handle?”

    No. I may be adding one before the second round. Stay tuned.

    “Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Matt. I have been searching and listening all weekend for someone to say or write this.”

    That’s the danger of high expectations, right? (Just ask the Miami Heat.) The Bulls are clearly superior than the Pacers…they should beat them by 20 every game, right? That’s not realistic. Especially in Game 1 of a playoff series (and even more especially this year…wow). The Pacers came in loose and extremely confident. They were playing with house money: This was the first of four chances for them to steal a game in Chicago and nobody expected them to win. They didn’t feel the pressure until the final minutes. When that happened, they folded.

    In general in the playoffs, too many people make too much out of a single game. This wasn’t a sign that the Bulls have some sudden vulnerability. The Pacers through what I think was their best punch.

  15. skelks@gmail.com'
    Kelks April 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Matt — I guess my comment about Deng was more of a generality. Over the last several games, he just doesn’t seem to be cutting to the paint (and elsewhere on the floor) without the ball as much as he did earlier in the season. His catch-and-shoot has also come sparingly lately. That used to be his bread and butter. I wonder if injuries/fatigue is getting to him.

  16. john.c.frangos@gmail.com'
    John April 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Matt,

    Just curious if you think Boozington understands that standing in a defensive crouch 4 feet away from your man is not “contesting” a shot? That said, are you as mystified as I am as to why Boozer isn’t better at defense? He seems to have quick feet in the post on offense, and he has long arms.

  17. Another Matt April 18, 2011 at 6:44 pm #

    Fan of the blog, only been following since I saw it featured on ESPN. Good stuff.
    I was at the game, and everyone around us kinda had the same feelings… Seemed like Rose wasn’t getting some calls (even though he still shot an astounding 21 FT’s), seemed like every 50-50 call went against us, Hansbrough couldn’t miss/did about 8 chest bumps which really got on my nerves, Granger had a lot of swag (and points), defense wasn’t rotating, Boozer looked lost after the first quarter… All of this and we ended up with a W. Can’t wait for tonights blowout, cuz I know not all these things will happen again.

  18. dsfgdshfjk88@yahoo.com'
    Joey "Three Frogs" Costanza April 18, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    I don’t mind the belated Recaps, take your time crafting the thing.

  19. oneredstone@gmail.com'
    RT April 18, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    I was also at the game. I keep reading different takes on the noise level in the UC. One Pacers writer claims that Bulls fans were kept in “nervous silence,” another Bulls blogger complains that the crowd was too quiet, and still other writers are saying that it was so loud that the Pacers couldn’t hear each other on the court. How do you think the home crowd did, Matt? I personally have not heard the UC so loud since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

  20. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale April 18, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    “I guess my comment about Deng was more of a generality. Over the last several games, he just doesn’t seem to be cutting to the paint (and elsewhere on the floor) without the ball as much as he did earlier in the season. His catch-and-shoot has also come sparingly lately. That used to be his bread and butter. I wonder if injuries/fatigue is getting to him.”

    To be honest, I haven’t noticed that much of a difference. The thing you have to remember about Deng is that he’s an opportunistic scorer. He doesn’t really get plays called for him; everything has to happen in the flow of the game, which means he’s taking the shots that are available to him. Sometimes, he has more of an opportunity to drive. Sometimes not. All I care about is that he’s not hanging out one step inside the three-point line chucking up contested, long-range twos.

    “Just curious if you think Boozington understands that standing in a defensive crouch 4 feet away from your man is not ‘contesting’ a shot? That said, are you as mystified as I am as to why Boozer isn’t better at defense? He seems to have quick feet in the post on offense, and he has long arms.”

    The problem is Boozer appears to have quick feet when moving forward in a straight-ish line, but his lateral quickness is very, very poor. As a result, he can’t stay in front of the man he’s checking unless he gives them that little extra cushion they need to get off a jumper. Honestly, it is a physical limitation. People want to say Boozer doesn’t care, or doesn’t try, but if you actually watch Boozer play, every second of every game, you’ll know that’s not true. People just can’t accept the idea of someone who is strong and reasonably athletic having such poor lateral movement. Watch Boozer defend a post play sometime. He will dig in a muscle his opponent. He’s not afraid of hard work. Not unwilling to try.

    Also, he still hasn’t fully recovered from that ankle sprain. He’s slower and less explosive than usual.

  21. bullsbythehorns@gmail.com'
    Matt McHale April 18, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

    “I was also at the game. I keep reading different takes on the noise level in the UC. One Pacers writer claims that Bulls fans were kept in ‘nervous silence,’ another Bulls blogger complains that the crowd was too quiet, and still other writers are saying that it was so loud that the Pacers couldn’t hear each other on the court. How do you think the home crowd did, Matt? I personally have not heard the UC so loud since Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.”

    I thouht the home crowd did fine.

    Here’s the problem with modern basketball. In the old Chicago stadium, people came to watch basketball, and that was it. As NBA stadiums have gotten bigger, teams market games not for hard core fans but to everybody. Couples on dates, families looking for things to do, etc. The dead time gets filled with circus acts and promotions…there are all these imposed breaks on the action, and people can’t maintain constant enthusiasm for the entire game because their attention is always getting yanked around.

    The crowd noise was dynamic. Sometimes it was off the hook. Other times there was nervous tension. It ebbs and flows and follows a natural course based on the game action. But when the crowd stayed in it pretty much throughout and was going crazy at the end.

    Bottom line: All the talk about the crowd noise was overblown.

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