As I mentioned yesterday, the Pacers are fully capable of playing well enough to beat the Bulls. Take care of the ball and make shots and the rest takes care of itself. The Pacers did just that for just over 44 minutes against the Bulls which put them up 10 points and in position to steal a Game 1 win. But the game is 48 minutes and the Bulls, and in particular, Derrick Rose, will keep grinding for all 48.
"It's like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend," Danny Granger said of Rose following the game. "Every time you tell her you don't want to talk to her, she shows up at your door again. We kept making runs one after another and they kept coming back."
That's just one of many lessons the Pacers need to learn from the loss. Larry Bird mentioned earlier this week that the young players for the Pacers would learn more in four playoff games than they did all season. I think today's game already surpassed the regular season. That was a high-level playoff game. The Pacers were the instigators not the retaliators. Big ups to Frank Vogel. He had the Pacers prepared and on point with a plan of attack they could handle against the tough Chicago defense.
But the failure on little things gave the Bulls just enough air to stay alive until the end when they, ahem, Rose up and put away the game while the Pacers were unable to execute when it mattered most.
I was amazed and enamored by the patience and discipline the Pacers showed in their half court offense throughout the game, often using up the bulk of the shot clock instead of trying to force something that wasn't there. Darren Collison handled the ball against that stout Bulls defense most of the day and only turned it over once. In fact, combined with A.J. Price, the Pacers point guards put up 25 points, 10 assists and only 2 turnovers. Those are usually winning numbers going away.
During the fatal 16-1 run by the Bulls to close the game, even one or two buckets by the Pacers would've changed everything, and they just couldn't get it. Credit the Bulls for ramping up their defense, I guess. But that defense looked much the same most of the game. The Pacers made a lot of open shots. Down the stretch, Hansbrough missed a runner, Collison missed a shot off pick and roll action that wasn't horrible and then Granger missed a couple of jumpers.
All were bad misses and the Bulls made them pay for each miss at the other end, which in turn cranked up the pressure for the next miss and so on.
There were also breakdowns at the other end. The 21 offensive rebounds the Bulls grabbed is just nutty. It wasn't a simple matter of getting a body on your man simply because the Pacers front court players had leave their man to cover a rotation in the lane so much that Rose would be plenty safe just getting in the lane and blindly chucking it up knowing his guys will be there to clean up. Still, there were enough "want to" opportunities that the Bulls simply beat the Pacers to in order to bloat that OReb number.
Then think about one other play. The Pacers are up six with two and a half minutes to go. After Hansbrough's missed runner, the Bulls are going the other way and Joakim Noah simply beats the Pacers defense down the floor. Rose snaps off a sweet pass which results in a dunk as the trailing Granger fouled him. If everybody is busting hump back on D, though, that passing lane isn't there nor is the momentum which swung to the Bulls along with Noah on the rim.
I'm sure there are many more little things that went wrong late that may have tipped things in the Pacers' favor, but they're all lessons learned the hard way.