Pacers-Bulls First Round Playoff Preview

For starters: Take a gander at ESPN’s Pacers-Bulls Series Page.


…I’d make a lousy coach.

I’ve read other playoff previews. I’ve sorted through stats. I’ve made an honest effort.

Still…I can’t find a single reason to fear the Indiana Pacers.

Indiana has the worst record (37-45) of any of this year’s playoff teams. I keep hearing that the Pacers made a strong run under coach Frank Vogel. And, sure, 20-18 is better than the 17-27 record they had under Jim O’Brien. But the Pacers are only 13-15 since the All-Star break.

Admittedly, that stretch includes a home win (in overtime) over the Bulls.

It also includes losses to the Kings, Pistons, Raptors and Timberwolves.

Now, the Pacers are facing a Bulls team that ranks first in Defensive Rating (100.3), first in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage (.463), third in Defensive Rebounding Percentage (.762) and fourth in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.294). The Bulls flat out stop people from scoring and they control the boards.

That’s a solid formula for victory. Especially against lesser teams.

This is where I give the biggest of kudos to fellow TrueHoop Network blog Eight Points, Nine Seconds. Jared Wade and Tim Donahue have done a truly epic job of compiling charts and providing analysis in their multi-part series preview. Honestly, the effort they’ve put into their preview makes me feel like somebody who showed up to an AP calculus test naked. That’s not my way of tricking you into picturing me naked and/or doing math.

I’m saying you should probably get over there and read over what they have to say.

However, it’s meaningful that Wade and Donahue have crunched the numbers until there was nothing left to crunch and there’s nothing to support the notion that the Pacers are anything more than a man walking to the gallows. To beat the Bulls, Indy will have to buck every conceivable statistical trend and outplay Chicago in ways they haven’t played on a consistent basis all season.

If you want even more intelligent analysis from the TrueHoop Network, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook has put together a series preview complete with offensive breakdowns, defensive breakdowns and a look at each team’s x-factor. Spoiler Alert: Luol Deng is Chicago’s x-factor. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is Indiana’s.

See why I’d make a lousy coach?

I wouldn’t know how to make the Bulls take the Pacers seriously.

And maybe that’s Indiana’s biggest advantage. Being the underdog can be pretty good motivation. Just as…the Bulls. They’ve been playing with a chip on their shoulder all season.

Then again, maybe Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau could use the following tidbit as motivation. Donahue writes: “Digging deeper shows that the Pacers Offensive improvement comes from focusing on two specific areas: offensive rebounding and getting to the line.  Under Vogel, Indiana has moved from 25th in ORB% to 8th, and from 28th in FT/FGA to 3rd.  They were rewarded with an increase in offensive efficiency of 3.5 points per 100 possessions.”

So, under Vogel, Indy has been crashing the offensive boards and earning foul shots.

We already know the Bulls dominate the glass at both ends. They also rank 8th in Opponents Free Throw Attempts (1898) and Opponents Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt (.222).

See what I mean? I can’t find a single clear-cut advantage for the Pacers.

And I’ve really been looking. So have a lot of other smart people.

I know the Pacers won their last game against the Bulls, back on March 18. But it’s worth noting that Chicago was playing the second of back-to-back road games (they had won the previous night in New Jersey). It was also the Bulls’ third game in four nights. The Pacers were coming off a day of rest.

There were mitigating factors. That’s all I’m saying.

All these things said, the Pacers are 24-17 at home. I think there’s a very real possibility that they could win a home game against a Bulls team that isn’t really playoff tested…

…I know. I know. I’m grasping at straws here.

Let’s bottom line this: The Bulls are better across the board. The Pacers did well to make the playoffs, but they are sorely over-matched. Unless something goes drastically wrong — and, hey, it could — Pacers-Bulls will be the least exciting of this year’s first round match-ups.

Unless you’re a Bulls fan.

10 Responses to Pacers-Bulls First Round Playoff Preview

    Mr Bull April 15, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    Oh man we should all fear the Pacers,because they have the Mighty Danny “Power in stupid statements” Granger(former all star).

    Scottie Pimpin April 15, 2011 at 2:53 pm #

    granger doing his best coach thibs impression in trying to motivate the bulls.

    i had bulls over pacers 4-1. after grangers comments. its a sweep.


  3. Inception April 15, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    IND gave a good fight against MIA in the reg season, and you know how they treat -.500 teams….i don’t think they should be overlooked….just look at what the seahawks did in their playoff opener vs. the saints….yes, it was one game in the NFL, but they were treated like trash by the media for making the playoffs with a sub 500 record…watch out for the underdogs!

    BULL4EVER April 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Never mind something going drastically wrong, because Chicago is sweeping these Indiana Pacers, regardless of something going drastically wrong.We already have our first talking victim and that’s danny granger and co. let other teams follow suit because everbody is next on this list and especially if it’s Miami and L.A. GO BULLS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Tim Donahue April 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm #

    Thanks for the plug, Matt. I must admit, it was a depressing exercise. However, I pretty much expected that when I started.

    In mid-March, I was probably leaning towards Boston to come out of the East, but I’d begun to question that down the stretch.

    It’s not unfair to Chicago to question how they’ll deal with Boston or Orlando or Miami…or eventually the Lakers (probably). There’s a long history of teams having to take their lumps first. Their ability to deal with the three-ring circus of the ECF or Finals will be an open question until they actually face it.

    However, that analysis really sold me on this Bulls team. I’d put them as my favorite in the East, with a good shot of taking it all. They do so many things well, and so few things poorly.

    Injuries and inexperience seem to be bigger threats than any of their opponents at this point.

    We’ll start to see Saturday.

    Good Luck (but not too much).

    Again, thanks for the plug.

    Mr Bull April 15, 2011 at 6:00 pm #

    Tim Donahue-I have enjoyed your previews,they are great!

    B-the-man April 16, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Bold talk of facing the lakers can come back to make you look foolish. I am an Indiana fan ,and i Know we are still rebuilding . The Pacers will be very lucky if they can win one or even two games in this series . But the Bulls are not a proven team . Come on , they play in the east , let alone in the Central Division . Not if , but when they get past the Pacers, will they have to play Boston ? Or Miami ? Will Lebron get the Super star calls from the Refs that MJ got ? The Bulls are a good team , but unproven . Can they do it in the Playoffs?

    rhett April 16, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    I don’t like expectations. Humans have them. Humans cannot help but make presumptions based upon 1) historical actions or 2) a small sample. It’s not their fault, really. Those of us that are able to correctly inference meaning and outcome from empirical data have a foundation for success.

    Generally, though, expectations are garbage if you allow them to change the performance.

    I worry about that. I worry about the concept of the under-dog and the favorite.

    What does each team need to do to win? we all know.

    paulo April 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    “Being the underdog can be pretty good motivation.”
    Ya think!

    Good news is, even a slow Bulls start is not enough. I am liking the Bulls in 5 prediction.

    Go Bulls!


  1. More Pacers/Bulls Previews and Predictions - April 15, 2011

    […] Everyone at CBS likes the Bulls, not to mention all the favorites in the East’s first round. Zach Lowe at SI foresees a Bulls sweep. (He added this on Twitter.) Kurt Helin of NBC agrees. And Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer expects the same, adding that “Chicago finished the season with the NBA’s best record, and the Pacers are one of the worst playoff teams in NBA history.” Dennis Scott, Greg Anthony and Rick Kamla of the NBA TV crew don’t expect much from Indiana. (Regardless, this last link takes you to a worth-watching, 10-minute video that includes Danny’s comments on preferring to play Chicago, some thoughts from Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and other good tidbits.) Matt HMcHale of the Bulls TrueHoop blog By The Horns gives Indy no chance. […]

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