Sneaking past the Pacers


I’ve been making noise about how the Bulls are a vastly improved team at home, but they aren’t so good that they should try to coast through games against inferior opponents. And yet that’s exactly what they did on a rare Saturday afternoon matchup with the Indiana Pacers. Despite falling behind by 14 points in the first quarter and then blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth, the Chi-towners still managed to eke out a 112-106 win, thanks to a pair of late-game three-pointers by John Salmons, but it was waaaaaay too close for comfort.

But hey, at least the Bulls went for over 100 points…so the fans got their free Big Macs. I’m not sure that quite makes up for the near heart attack, but whatever.

So yeah, I wasn’t too thrilled with the rather lackadaisical effort our boys put forth today, particularly Ben Gordon. BG scored a team-high 25 points (11-for-18) but was repeatedly burned on defense by Pacers rookie Brandon Rush. Like burned so badly he’s going to have to pencil in his eyebrows for the next few weeks. Rush scored 10 of Indy’s first 12 points, ended the first quarter with 18 and finished the day with a career-high 29 on 13-for-19 shooting. Memo to Ben: Putting up 25 is great, but when you do that and then give up 29, well, do the math.

One guy I’m not going to criticize for a change is Tyrus Thomas, who’s been tearing it up lately. Coming into today’s game, Ty had notched a double-double in four of his last five games. He didn’t have one today, but he came close (18 points and 8 boards). More importantly, Tyrus was a menace on defense, providing intimidation in the middle and rejecting 7 shots, one off the career-high he established against the Timberwolves back in January.

Ty’s biggest block of the game came with 27 seconds to go and the Bulls clinging to a 5-point lead. Danny Granger — who had a game-high 32 points — beat his man for what initially looked like an uncontested layup. However, a rotating Tyrus not only contested it, he swatted it and controlled the rebound. Jeff Foster was forced to foul him and Ty nailed both free throws, effectively putting the game out of reach. Said Granger: “I thought I had beaten my man, but he made a great play. Pretty much won the game.”

I’ll readily admit that I’ve been hard on Tyrus, in particular because of his sometimes iffy decision-making. But he’s been playing good, smart basketball lately. His jumpers typically still outnumber his shots in the paint — the ratio was 8:3 today — but his shot selection has become more, shall we say, judicious. And against the Pacers, he went 4-for-8 from the outside and 3-for-3 in the colored rectangle. He was focused. He was energetic. He was, quite simply, everything Vinny Del Negro wants him to be.

So the victory won’t go down in Chicago history as one of the great ones, but a win’s a win. The fourth in a row (matching the team’s longest streak in two years) and seventh in the last eight, to be precise. Plus, it keeps them in seventh place and only a 2.5 games behind Philly for sixth. So I guess in this case, the ends justify the means. Sort of.

Player notes: John Salmons continued his strong play by scoring 22 points (8-for-15) and knocking down four of his seven three-point attempts (including the back-to-back fourth-quarter daggers). Despite the sore wrist, Derrick Rose went for 16 (7-for-18) and snared a team-high 9 rebounds. Brad Miller had 17 points (6-for-11), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and a block off the bench. Tim Thomas went scoreless (0-for-3) in six minutes as Vinny continues to use what is basically a seven-man rotation.

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

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4 Responses to Sneaking past the Pacers

    Matt March 29, 2009 at 12:47 am #

    I really take issue with these casual dismissals of BG’s game in your recap. Were you just listening to Neil Funk, one of the most grossly incompetent announcers Chicago has ever seen, and not watching the game? Here’s what you forgot to mention in your blase treatment of Ben: He was +17, highest on the team. So this whole, “You can’t score 25 and give up 29” argument is simply not based in fact, although curiously it was also what Stacey and Neil were saying ad infinitum the whole game. What he did was score 25 on extremely efficient shooting (11-18), grab 5 boards, 5 dimes, 3 steals and one turnover. By comparison, Salmons had equally efficient shooting (8-15) but also turned the ball over 5 times, had his usual ZERO assists and a massive two rebounds. But two threes late in the game (and I agree they were big) and no one talks about his flaws.

    Perhaps if you watched Brandon Rush’s performance, you’d see that Rush continued his torrid scoring on both Salmons and Hinrich (oh wait, they both have defensive reputations; therefore, it must be Ben’s fault Rush was scoring). Rush had a great game and no one on the Bulls was ready for it—not Gordon, not Hinrich, not Salmons, not VDN.

    It’s tiring reading these recaps of heroic performances by Ben (see @Miami ) and seeing his game reduced to the rote “bad defense Ben.” Yes, he’s shorter than a lot of players. But that doesn’t make him a bad team defender—in fact, he’s been a very good team defender this year and last. Please try and keep that in mind in your next recap.

    Matt McHale March 30, 2009 at 1:00 am #

    Matt — It’s funny how when I give Ben kudos I get people slamming me because they think he sucks, then when I mention his less-than-stellar defense, I get blasted by people defending him.

    As noted, Rush did most of his damage in the first quarter (18 points) when Ben was on him and wasn’t getting a hand in his face. Gordon was -5 in that quarter after which the Bulls were down 14. Yes, Ben did some spiffy work to catch the Bulls up in periods 2 and 3, but his spotty defense was a big part of Chicago’s slow start, which is why they had to play catchup most of the game.

    Rush scored 11 points after the first.


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