The Pacers played short-handed with leading scorer Danny Granger sidelined by a sprained ankle and there was no one in blue able to make up the difference. In fact, the Pacers that did play had trouble covering for their own production, combining to shoot a paltry 36% from the floor and 16% (3-19) from 3-land.
The night wasn't a complete bust as the game played a little closer than the final score indicates. Thanks to an incredible effort by the second unit of T.J. Ford, James Posey and Solo Jones teaming up with Mike Dunleavy and Brandon Rush, the Pacers fought their way back from an early deficit with an extraordinary effort at the defensive end and on the glass.
But when it was time to go at winning time, that group ran out of gas while Derrick Rose looked like Mike Tyson in his prime, stalking an opponent across the ring before knocking them out. Teaming up with his trusty sidekick Carlos Boozer, Rose finished off the Pacers in the final five minutes with six points and four assists to account for 14 of Chicago's final 16 points.
The loss exposed more growing pains for the Pacers since you can't just pin the loss on missing Granger's 21 points. Prior to the game, Jim O'Brien told the media the despite all of the glowing praise and talk of Most Improved Player status, Roy Hibbert is actually not having a good season. While the words sound harsh, you can't argue that Hibbert hasn't been playing up to expectations of late and considering Jim O'Brien expected to run more of his offense through Hibbert this season, that's a huge problem.
Hibbert went out and backed up JOB's pre-game words with his play on the court. He finished the game with 6 points and 3 rebounds with maybe two or three assertive moves in the post. The rest of the time he was easily held in check by Joakim Noah forcing JOB to play Solo Jones the majority of minutes in the post. Hibbert's worst moment came when he had returned to the court and was simply outworked by Noah for a rebound of a missed Chicago free throw.
Don't get me wrong, this was a team loss, but that one play was symbolic of why the Pacers lost to the Bulls tonight.
After the jump, a few more thoughts and observations on the game.
- The Bulls jumped on the Pacers quickly leading 14-2 after three minutes and 25-8 after seven minutes. The Pacers closed out the quarter on a 10-2 run and then eventually came all the way back to take a three point lead late in the second quarter. The Pacers never shot it real well all night, but at that point their defense and rebounding combined to make the difference along with getting to the free throw line.
- It was nice while it lasted, but the Bulls eventually asserted their will on the glass, led by Boozers 18 boards. They also ended up shooting 20 free throws which was 5 more than the Pacers shot. Both teams only made 10 of those freebies, though.
- The Pacers had no chance to get to the line late in the game because they relied on perimeter shots most of which clanked away. When they weren't clanking they were missing everything. Throughout the game, the Pacers shot more than a handful of air balls. They even scored buckets on three of those air balls with quick put backs. I was starting to think, JOB had them working on the ol' Lorenzo Charles play.
- Darren Collison found himself in a similar slot in the rotation as Roy Hibbert with T.J. Ford vastly outplaying DC on the night, Ford played the majority of minutes at PG. Ford scored 13 points with 4 assists while hounding Rose much of the night. Rose finished strong but after 12 points early in the game, he only had 17 on the night.
- Mike Dunleavy breathed life into the Pacers initial return from the dead scoring nine straight points for the Pacers to close the lead down to one in the second quarter. Dunleavy also blocked a layup attempt by Joakim Noah, so he had that going for him too. Unfortunately his shot sputtered from there and he finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds.
- Josh McRoberts struggled with Boozer and didn't play a ton more so because of the defensive effort from James Posey, but McRoberts did have a couple of sweet follow dunks in the second quarter that had Chris Denari in the Gus-Johnson-game-winner zone on the call.
- With Granger out, Dahntay Jones also played extended minutes and contributed to the admirable defensive effort the Pacers used to hang around.
- Brandon Rush played over 40 minutes and really ran out of gas toward the end. He had a tough shooting night (5-17) while trying to create his own shots far too often which is not his strong suit. He finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds.
- What Carlos Boozer lacked in efficiency against the Pacers he made up for in persistence. It took him 21 shots to score 22 points but his 18 rebounds, including four at the offensive end took the life out of the Pacers.
- No time to whine about playing time with the Lakers coming to Indy on Wednesday looking for revenge. Hopefully Granger will be good to go and we can see who has some guts they're willing to spill.