INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 23: Jeff Foster #10 of the Indiana Pacers and Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls battle for position on a free-throw in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at Conseco Fieldhouse on April 23, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Pacers defeated the Bulls 89-84. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
It was fitting that it came down to a defensive stop.
The Indiana Pacerswere in the midst of tossing away a perfectly great effort along with game, series and season to the Chicago Bulls. In fact, during a timeout with 46 seconds remaining, I texted my wife telling her I'd be shocked if the Pacers hung on. The Pacers were up five at the time. It was going that bad.
The offense was done. Forget just trying to score a bucket to outlast the Bulls, the Pacers were having trouble not just giving the ball to Derrick Rose and Co. to give them a chance to keep on attacking. Even though they were down so much, so late, the Bulls weren't going to lay down before the final buzzer. Plus, they know their opponent.
Nope, the first playoff win in five years wasn't going to come easy for the Pacers and if they couldn't put things away at the offensive end, the Pacers would have to come up with the stops to do it. With 14 seconds left, the Bulls went into their final possession needing three points to tie the game. Rose, Kyle Korver and Luol Deng were all denied their look at the game-tying bucket leaving Carlos Boozer in the corner to hoist up a prayer (and that was contested too).
Boozer's shot hit short allowing Danny Granger to craddle the rebound and put away the win at the free throw line. Finally, the Pacers beat the Bulls and after doing such a great job closing out on shooters (Kyler Korver even had an air ball at one point) and defending in general all game, shutting down that final Bulls' possession was a perfect way to seal the deal.
I also thought it was appropriate that Danny Granger closed out the game for the Pacers at the free throw line, making four free throws in the final 14 seconds, averting a total collapse. After enduring so much frustration and change over the past five years, Granger was still standing, this time to put the game out of reach which he did from the line to close out a 24-point performance. Granger is no one's ideal number one option, but he's all the Pacers have at this time, so while criticism of his play is often warranted, you have to give him credit today for hanging in and keeping the season alive.