Game 4 Recap: Pacers 89, Bulls 84

It’s a simple lesson. Every child learns it.

If you keep playing with fire…you’re going to get burned.

Chicago finally got burned in Game 4. By repeatedly waiting until the final quarter — the final minutes actually — to play with all-out, winner-takes-all intensity, the Bulls have not only given Indiana life, the Pacers believe they can win this series. Maybe that they should have won it already.

Said Indiana coach Frank Vogel: “I’m still upset that it’s 1-3. We should be up in the series.”

That’s not just coach speak. All the Pacers feel that way.

Added A.J. Price: “Sometimes all it takes is one game to get a team over the hump. Hopefully this will be the game for us. In terms of schemes there was nothing different in our game plan. We just happened to be up a little more. This series could very easily be different. It could be 2-2, 3-1 us, anything you want to say. We’ve played them tough and I know if we finish games better we’ll have a chance to win games. That’s how we’re going to approach it.”

As ESPNChicago’s Nick Friedell points out, the Pacers are setting the tempo of this series. They’re the aggressors. They’re the ones playing lockdown defense, making hustle plays and winning battles for loose balls. And it’s Indy’s reserves, not Chicago’s Bench Mob, making a critical difference. Check out the plus-minus scores: Mike Dunleavy Jr. (+13), Price (+10), Jeff Foster (+5) and Josh McRoberts (+4) are making a much bigger impact than Taj Gibson (+3), Kyle Korver (0), C.J. Watson (-3), Omer Asik (-5), Ronnie Brewer (-7) or Kurt Thomas (-7).

The Bulls were the league’s best defensive team during the regular season. But the way these games are going, you’d think it had been the Pacers. Look at what Indy’s D did to Chi-town’s O yesterday: 37.8 percent shooting, 3-for-20 from downtown, 14 turnovers for 21 points going the other way, zero fast break points. The Bulls also gave up 15 offensive rebounds and 18 second chance points. And then, of course, there was Derrick Rose’s 6-for-22 performance on a sprained ankle.

Yes, the injury affected Rose, which is why he made attempted only four free throws after taking 49 in the first three games. I will give credit to Indiana’s defense, but Derrick wasn’t attacking the basket with his usual tenacity. Whether he physically couldn’t or was afraid of further injury has yet to be determined.

But Rose wasn’t giving any excuses after the game.

Said Rose: “A sprained ankle is going to slow you down a little bit, but all of my shots were on line. They were just short. No excuses. It’s the playoffs. I’ve sprained my ankle many times, you’ve just got to make shots.”

Anyway, the Bulls dug themselves a big hole, falling behind by as many as 18 points. They were still down by 16 points until Korver drilled a three-pointer with 2:38 remaining. And they were trailing by 13 until Carlos Boozer (15 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists) knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:54 to go.

Korver’s shot and Boozer’s freebies were part of a mega-rally by the Bulls that pulled them to within a single point with 15.3 seconds left. Of course, Chicago’s near-comeback was aided and abetted by a group choke job by the Pacers, who became content to hold onto the ball and either chuck up an awful shot or let the shot clock expire. Had the Pacers simply kept playing the way they had played all game, there probably wouldn’t have been a comeback.

But there was.

After the Bulls cut the deficit to a point, Luol Deng (16 points, 5-for-14, 3 rebounds) was forced to foul Danny Granger (24 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists), who converted both foul shots. Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau called a 20-second timeout, after which the Bulls came out and ran what may have been the worst play known to man. Seriously, I wondered out loud afterward whether Vinny Del Negro had phoned it in.

Basically, Joakim Noah (21 points, 8-for-13, 14 rebounds) ended up holding onto the ball for far too long as Deng fought to get open. When it became clear the play was busted, the Bulls initiated a “panic set” that ended when Boozer — of all people — launched a three-point attempt from the baseline.

For perspective: In 569 regular season games, Boozer is 1-for-9 on threes. After Game 4, he is now 0-for-1 in 48 career playoff games. So, yeah, that was not the shot the Bulls wanted.

Said Noah: “I caught the ball at the elbow and I was supposed to set a back screen for Luol. They played it well, they denied the dribble hand-off. Really, it was a mental mistake. When you’re in that position, you’ve got to call timeout, so we learn from it.”

That’s cool. I’m glad they’ll learn from it. But when you’re one play away from pulling off your fourth straight fourth quarter comeback, I’m not sure clutch execution is the problem.

The fact that they have to keep coming back…that’s the problem.

Chicago’s offense has been terrible. Among this year’s playoff teams, the Bulls currently rank dead last in eFG% (43.4) and next to last in Turnover Percentage (15.3). When a team can’t shoot or take care of the basketball, well, that means pretty big trouble. Which is what the Bulls have been in every single game.

Every. Single. Game.

This isn’t funny anymore. This is no longer cute. Indiana’s “Little Engine That Could” act is starting to wear thin for Bulls fans who were expecting a lot better from their team. And do you know what they were expecting? For the Bulls to play the entire 48 minutes the way they’ve been playing in the final five of each game. It hasn’t happened yet.

When will it?

Said Noah: “You see what these games come down to. It’s nothing. It’s on us to…if we play the way we played in that fourth quarter, for 48 minutes, we’d win that ballgame. We’re excited. We’re excited about the opportunity to go back home.”

I’m glad the players are excited, because I’m sure not. I’m really nervous. Not that the Pacers are going to come back and win this series, although I can’t say I’m 100 percent confident the Bulls will win Game 5. I’m worried about what this means for the next series. The Bulls are playing sloppy, undisciplined basketball.

And, to be completely honest, Thibodeau’s coaching hasn’t been wowing me. He’s completely abandoned his rotations and his “final five minute” offense seems to center around setting screens for Korver or (pre-injury) launching Rose at the hoop like a guided missile.

This does not look like the Bulls team we followed for 82 regular season games.

But you know what? Maybe this wake-up call was needed. No, I’m not rationalizing, I swear. Heading into Game 4, the Bulls had won 12 games in a row and 24 of their last 26 overall. And, frankly, they compiled quite a few of those wins without playing their best basketball.

It’s flat out unrealistic to expect a team to win every game. The Bulls have been on an extremely successful extended run. Think about it: Yesterday was Chicago’s third loss since March 4. The team was due for a loss. It really was.

One of the key characteristics of these Bulls during the regular season was that they responded very well to a loss. Each loss seemed to refocus and rededicate them to all the little things that lead to wins. Making hustle plays and coming up with those 50-50 balls. Things like that.

Unless every single thing we know about this team was a lie, some sort of grand flim-flam, the Bulls are going to come out absolutely on fire in Game 5. That almost have to. For their confidence and for the confidence of their fans. To build some momentum heading into the second round. And, most importantly, so they can have a few extra days of rest to recover from a series that has pushed them far harder than anybody expected.

Recap, Box Score, BBR Box ScorePlay-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

11 Responses to Game 4 Recap: Pacers 89, Bulls 84

    BULL4EVER April 24, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    That game 4 loss will be great in the long run for this Chicago team because the Bulls will have a psychologic easier battle ahead when they head over to round 2 and totally beyond, we will easily take this round 1 series in 5.GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Inception April 24, 2011 at 5:04 pm #

    game 5 = virtually a must-win game for CHI…..every game has been tight, rose has a bum ankle, and CHI’s biggest lead has been 7 pts…..yeah, this team definitely does not want this series to go back to indy and back for a game 7 in CHI….believe that.

    bottom-line – go all out tuesday night!

    inkybreath April 24, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

    I said it earlier and i still feel that they needed to lose a game in this series to understand what was going on.

    Matt – You hit it on the head:

    “This does not look like the Bulls team we followed for 82 regular season games.”

    That sums it up for me. And, it is Thibs who decided it. I understand that playoff rotations are distinctly different that the regular season. BUT – when your team is struggling – THEY ARE THE F**KING PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO COME IN AND REMIND THE STARTERS WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING.

    Instead, Thibs is treating them like a disaster kit. Only when it gets SO bad or Boozer has two fouls again.

    Of course, the coach is learning as much as anyone on the court. And, he deserves to get the benefit of the doubt, in the same way that Rose gets it after 8 turnovers.

  4. PTFC April 24, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    Great article. I normally have a thing or two to add to your write ups but you pretty much covered everything.

    1. Bulls need to stop sucking for 46 minutes
    2. Bench Mob needs more minutes
    3. Wake up call needed

    inkybreath April 25, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    (Pleasant side note: Hoorah for Hinrich in Atlanta. It was nice to see him get off that Washington team and have a good chance to play in the playoffs. Also, he has helped those who prop up Howard so much for MVP suck a little air. They have no business being down 3 to 1 to Atlanta.)

    Scpttie Pimpin April 25, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    man we should be killing these guys with a drose/booz pick n roll game.

    chitown4life April 25, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    @ Scottie P yes we should be killing Indy yet here we are up 3-1, at the same time, the post Matt wrote is on target our coach has changed during this series.
    1) Get back to what we do best as he said before the playoffs started keep the rotation in tact.
    2) We need to get more physical its only gonna get worse in the next series,I am sure we can win this one with or without D Rose whom I feel should not play unless needed to let his ankle totally heal.
    3) We may want to consider making Boozer the focus of the offense to make the defense respect him inside to take attention off of our outside shooters, is that not why we spent 80 plus mil on him, sure was not for his defense, no pun meant Carlos is just mainly an offensive player so make him the focal point in the game .great point Scottie loved it.

    Was I not the only one who’s mouth was left hung wide open when D Rose started to limp. I am gonna say this if D Rose goes down our chances of winning are about done just short of no chance, hope he gets well soon. Get Well D Rose we need you to be at your best for the playoffs.

    luvabullnj April 25, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    Thank you very much Sixers for pushing Miami to at least 5 games. Go Boston, get rested and give Miami a long hard fought series. Hope they (Celts and Heat) beat each other up so the survivor to the Finals is totally spent.
    Go Captain Kirk. Who would have thought the play of two ex-Bulls (Jamal & Kirk), may finally give the Hawks the edge to get past the Magic. Hawks in six? The only reason I don’t want the Hawks to win is if the Magic are out in the first round, I’m guessing Howard goes to Lakers and that just would not be fair or right. I wouldn’t mind if Howard went to the Clippers though. That could be the best 4-5 combo since Duncan and Robinson.
    But I digress. Go Bulls. Beat the Pacers in game 5!

  9. Anonymous April 25, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    I kinda wish the Bulls had lost big. Not just a loss, a thrashing; a loss that made them sit there and think “how did this happen? Are they actually better? You know, this series isn’t as much of a lock as we thought”. We needed a loss that made them, not just angry, but scared. A loss that made them believe that the series wasn’t theirs, that the Pacers were a better team than anyone thought. Losing by, essentially, 1 basket doesn’t help. The bulls know they were in the game at the end even with their first 3 quarters. While a loss helps a bit, we need one where the Bulls can’t even see the finish line. A loss where Indiana plays their bench for the last 2 minutes. Until that happens, I keep worrying that the Bulls won’t change their game plan, and I hope that the Bulls wake up on their own because otherwise it will take going down 0-1 in Round 2 before the Bulls step up their game.

  10. Tae April 25, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    Why is Taj Gibson not playing way more minutes? He’s outperformed his counterpart 3 out of 4 games in both ends of the floor, yet Boozer is the one still out there. Did I miss something that we reward crappy play, or did Boozer decide he’s going to take his yearly playoff break early?

    Who’s the softer Power Forward in the first round? Pau Gasol, who can’t handle Carl Landry or Boozer, who can’t handle cooties?

  11. The Rock April 25, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    Great read Matt. The panic meter is still dormant but in the event of a loss in game 5, roll it out. Having a dominant game in game 5 is mandatory with nothing less, its just an absolute must. I feel they’ll come out strong, wont blow them out, but nonetheless put away these pesky Pacers and move on. I also feel this will be the most challenging series for the Bulls this post season. As of right now its looking like Bulls vs Hawks in rd 2, I just feel ATL wont be as tough as Indy.

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