This was one of those classic “the final score doesn’t tell the whole story” games.
Danny Granger — Indiana’s best player — didn’t play because of a sprained ankle.
The Bulls started out on fire, building a 25-8 lead in the first quarter. At that point, it looked like the Pacers were going to get blown right out of the United Center.
With 4:16 left in the first and the Bulls still up 17 points, Derrick Rose fouled Dahntay Jones. It was Rose’s second personal. He headed to the bench…and momentum shifted.
Minus Rose, Chicago’s offense lulled and Indiana’s defensive intensity picked up. The Pacers closed the quarter on a 10-2 run. By the time Derrick re-entered the game less than a minute into the second quarter, Indy’s D had given them the advantage.
Things got physical. Their was a lot of uncalled contact around the basket. So much so that the usually mild-mannered Rose picked up a technical foul for arguing a no-call. Considering his history of calm, I had figured I’d see a nun flip somebody off before I saw Rose start beefing with the officials.
It’s probably necessary. No matter what some people say — that Rose doesn’t draw contact on his many drives to the basket — Derrick gets hit. Often. It’s just that, unlike most NBA players, he doesn’t flail or flop or scream when it happens. That fact, more so than his ability to absorb the blows and finish anyway, is what has prevented him from making more trips to the line.
At any rate, when the game got rough, the Pacers started taking over. The nabbed the lead. They were grabbing all the rebounds and making all the hustle plays. Josh McRoberts ran past and jumped over everybody for two put-back slams within a minute of each other. Indy was just outworking the Bulls.
Thanks to a quick end-of-the-half flurry by Rose — a driving layup and one, an assist on a three-pointer by Kyle Korver and a three of his own off a dish from Carlos Boozer — Chicago went to halftime with a 43-41 lead.
I have to give the Pacers credit. During the third quarter, the Bulls kept flirting with a double-digit lead, but they couldn’t push their advantage past nine points. The Indy players really did give it all they had. They clogged the middle and forced the Bulls into a lot of contested two-pointers. They harassed D-Rose into a bad shooting night (6-for-18). And they kept Joakim Noah off the boards, limiting him to five rebounds on the night.
Fortunately for Chicago, Carlos Boozer picked up the slack with 22 points (10-for-21) and 18 rebounds. Again, this is why management brought in Boozer. So that Rose and Noah don’t have to kill themselves every single night.
As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell said: “Boozer’s ability to score down low helped push the Bulls out of their funk. His energy off the glass during the second half helped get the team on track. He is slowly becoming the security blanket down low that the Bulls had hoped he would be.”
All hail Boozington!
Mind you, despite having a “bad” game, Derrick still finished with 17 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds and a steal. He also went 3-for-6 from downtown. Rose is entering that superstar zone where even his subpar games are pretty darn good.
Anyway, in the fourth quarter, Chicago’s offense got back on track while Indiana’s offense — thanks, of course, to the Bulls’ defense — became all three-pointers and long jumpers. After T.J. Ford hit a 20-footer to pull the Pacers to within four points (73-69) with 6:30 remaining, the Bulls ripped off a 19-4 run to close out the game.
Unfortunately, with 1:56 left, Rose was fouled while in mid-air and fell. I mean, he fell hard. Hard enough that whoever was managing the United Center almost needed to call in a fleet of ambulances. Seriously, 21,287 hearts stopped dead for a few seconds.
The way he reacted to the fall, it looked like Rose sprained an ankle. But actually, he sprained his right wrist. The good news: X-rays were negative.
Said Rose: “I saw my whole future flash before my eyes, coming down. I thought it was going to be worse than that. But right now it just feels sore. That’s basketball. Some of the times, the games are going to be physical. And you got to be able to play through them.”
Of course, he also had this to say about the foul that sent him to the hardwood: “[Brandon Rush] slid in my way. If anything, next time I’ll be careful and learn from my mistakes. Especially with that team.”
Rose seems a little perturbed, doesn’t he?
Added Bulls athletic trainer Fred Tedeschi: “All the bones are in the right place. So from that point, we know that it’s not too severe from the sprain standpoint, so we’ll just kind of keep our fingers crossed and hope it stays that way.”
As for the Bulls, their defense is really picking up. These are the point totals they’ve held their opponents to in the last five games: 90, 83, 84, 82, 73. In the last three games, they’ve held their foes to a season low in points.
Said Indiana’s Mike Dunleavy: “They’re a really good defensive team. [They’re] well coached. We already knew that coming in. But we didn’t help the situation by missing a lot of open 3’s in the second half.”
The Bulls have now won six in a row. It’s the first time they’ve won that many consecutive games since November 25 through December 8 in 2006.