CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 05: George Hill #3 of the Indiana Pacers tries to shoot over Taj Gibson #22 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on March 5, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. 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's not so surprising that the Indiana Pacers lost to the Bulls in Chicago, but it's disappointing how the game got away from them in the third quarter. Following a superb first half where the Pacers keyed the Bulls on the defensive end, having perhaps their best defensive half of basketball, limiting Chicago opportunities, holding Derrick Rose to 2 points on 1-9 shooting, clawing in typical fashion to the recent style of this budding rivalry to a one point halftime lead.
For all of the positives, the Pacers should've probably held a larger margin heading into the half, and that came back against them despite the positives Indiana had going for them. To some degree, it's encouraging that Indiana was able to lead at the half with no offensive contribution from a foul hampered Roy Hibbert and a defensive focused Darren Collison.
Despite early play from Danny Granger and David West, it was George Hill and Paul George led the way for the Pacers in the first half offensively, but given the outcome of the game, they didn't get anything from anyone else, and that was what came into play when Rose came out of his slump just long enough to drill three three pointers, and defer to Luol Deng for a pair of his own, including a prayer to beat a shot clock.
Those threes were enough to blow the game wide open as Indiana hit a rough patch offensively. The Bulls defense made some plays inside, yet Indiana was still able to get enough looks, whiffing on everything, hitting their common cold streak at the absolute worst time. Chicago blew the game wide open and despite a short stretch late in the third where Indiana cut it to 13 with the ball, they weren't able to get any offensive rhythm to get themselves back into the game.
Despite the early positives, the Bulls dominated the glass all night, completely limiting Indiana's effectiveness in getting any kind of second chance opportunities. The Pacers were hesitant to drive when the calls weren't coming at the rate they were used to, and the Bulls were just a step faster in hustle plays. Indiana was able to frustrate the Bulls by forcing turnovers as a huge advantage the Pacers had throughout the night.
When Chicago began to hit shots, Indiana lost their composure in a big way, speeding up their offense and getting away from the ball movement that had resulted in them getting a solid number of assists. It seemed Indiana got antsy when the Bulls pulled away and they weren't able to respond with anything. They knew all too well that if they were going to get behind Chicago by double digits, it was going to be incredibly difficult to turn the game around, and they played with the frantic sense that they had to avoid that rather than getting the game back on track.
In the end, it was a frustrating second half, but sweeping the Bulls in Chicago would've been a huge accomplishment, and credit to the Bulls for coming out in the second half hellbent on making sure the Pacers weren't in any kind of a position to make that happen. However, if it's any consolation, the Pacers can know tonight's lopsided loss hasn't been the trend in the team's recent series, and unlike Carlos Boozer continuing to be a complete no-show in this matchup, it marks just the second time in the Frank Vogel era the Bulls have pulled away in the second half behind hot three point shooting.
After the jump, a little more on the shows and no shows:
- It was the George & George show for the Pacers tonight as both Paul and Hill led the way with 21 points and 17 respectively, scoring 38 of the Pacers' season low 72 points. Hill's play was key off of the bench to help a second unit that was struggling to find anything, and Paul's timely defense was big again tonight in forcing turnovers. Paul shot the ball well for the night, considering just how poorly Indiana shot in the second half, but was unable to hit that shot to end runs or get some momentum to swing back in Indiana's favor, and when he did, it was after the shot clock went off.
- Danny Granger had a great start to the game, seeming to put the team on his shoulders, but really fell out of favor offensively. It doesn't seem like he shied away from the light, it just felt like he didn't get the shots or the advantages to make plays on the offensive end. His attempts to get to the line were met with no calls and he really wasn't able to get any kind of flow outside of the opening quarter, which no doubt came back on the Pacers when Rose was opening up in the third.
- Roy Hibbert found himself in early foul trouble, and like the Hibbert of old, it completely killed his mojo. The big fella didn't get his first points until the third quarter, and didn't score after that, finishing with 2 points and 7 boards on 1-6 shooting. Chicago did well in the paint, and Hibbert, who had four assists, didn't force anything he didn't need to. But when he tried to get his offensive game going, he just couldn't get the ignition to turn over.
- Darren Collison had a similar case, but despite his complete no show on the offensive end, there has to be ample credit given to DC for his play on Derrick Rose in the first half. Not only did he completely lock down Rose, limiting Rose's chances and making him a non-factor when he did, but he was able to create turnovers and keep the Bulls offense out of rhythm. The case can made that Rose looked winded and exhausted, but DC played a key part in that.
- Not much can be said about the rest of the team's pretty nondescript play. Lou Amundson was in position to make a number of big plays, and probably made the most of any bench unit guy not named George Hill, but one of Indiana's struggles came in their inability to secure rebounds and grab loose balls, and Amundson was unable to make up the difference in that category when they sorely missed Jeff Foster's savvy play.
Indiana's longest winning streak in seven years came to a close in Chicago, and the difficult nine game stretch Indiana finds themselves in is off to an 0-1 start. But given the tall task of beating the Bulls twice in Chicago, the only truly disappointing thing is how the game got away from them. Of course, Indiana gets the reward of facing the Atlanta Hawks, one of Indiana's biggest matchup nightmares. While they're still working through some injury issues, the matchup troubles won't go away, and Indiana has to be able to respond to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole.