Yes, the Indiana Pacers caught the Chicago Bulls on the tired side of a back-to-back after their overtime win against Portland last night, but the news here is that the Pacers took advantage of the situation and made the Bulls work far harder to keep up than they were willing and able.
With no numbers to back up this claim, the Pacers surely had a season high in teammate-to-teammate passes as their ball and player movement worked as well as it has all season which was good enough for the home team to roll to a 100-90 win in front of of a full house at Conseco Fieldhouse.
There were passes to push the pace, passes swinging around the perimeter, passes from the high post to open cutters at the rim. After opening up a tight game to create a 7-point cushion at the half, the Pacers maintained a double-digit lead for the better part of the second half.
Problem was, it seemed like the Pacers were playing well enough to be up 20. While they solved the layup problem with all of the open looks, many finishing with dunks, the perimeter shots were clanking. Now, don't think I'm complaining, because that type of clankage usually ends with an L for the Pacers so the fact that they overcame the clanks, defended well enough and found enough easy buckets for the win is monumental.
After the jump, many more thoughts on this win.
- Let's start with small ball. The Pacers started small again with T.J. Ford and Earl Watson at the guards. The Bulls tried to establish Taj Gibson early against Danny Granger in the post, but it didn't take. Eventually, Vinny Del Negro upped the small ball ante and played three points with Jannero Pargo, Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich playing significant minutes together. VDN even added Flip Murray to the mix at one point in the fourth quarter, leaving Taj Gibson as the only thing resembling a front court player for the Bulls. Nothing seemed to click for the Bulls though, although I must admit that Gibson is a real nice young player to have roaming around the post.
- The Bulls small-ball strategy probably seemed sound with Dahntay Jones on the floor since his offensive game hasn't taken much defense of late. But Jones made them pay, getting into the lane and finishing strong at the rim several times, including some crowd pleasing dunks.
- Speaking of the crowd, there was plenty of red and black which helped fill the place, but even with all of the visitors the atmosphere was electric and I can't help but think the Pacers fed off the juice on their home court.
- Roy Hibbert played plenty of minutes off the bench tonight and had one of his best all-around outings of the year. He was active around the rim and flashed some great passes out of the high post. Hibbert had three sweet dimes in the first half hitting the cutter for layups at the rim. He had a couple of ill-advised passes but the Pacers kept going to the high post to keep the offense moving. Troy Murphy also had three assists out of the post.
- Hibbert finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds although 3 of those rebound were at the offensive end on the same play as he kept trying to putback his own misses while battling a couple of red jerseys.
- Danny Granger took advantage of the small lineups the Bulls threw out there and had some success scoring near the hoop. His 30 points did take 21 shots which isn't great, but he did get in the lane more instead of settling for jumpers. Granger also held his own in the front court grabbing 8 rebounds and snagging four steals.
- No doubt the Bulls were laboring after the heavy minutes on Friday night. Only Derrick Rose seemed capable of pulling the win out in the fourth quarter, but when he knocked knees with Earl Watson with a little over two minutes left, the white flag was out.
- One thing I learned tonight was to enjoy the sight of Jannero Pargo pulling up for a jumper. Seemed like every time the Bulls had a chance to dig into the Pacers' lead he would clank a jumper short off the front rim. Pargo led the Bulls in FGAs with 16 which was definitely a bonus for the Pacers.
- Luol Deng was really hurting in the second half. Whether his knee was flaring up or the 45 minutes on Friday had sapped his legs, he could barely get the ball to the rim on his mid-range jumpers. After failing to get a few calls on takes to the rim, his will was killed down the stretch.
- Hopefully the Bulls left town after the game because otherwise Deng and Brad Miller would probably go on a wilding binge around the city to take out their frustrations from this game. Miller took the brunt of Roy Hibberts great play in the first half, one of those nights where everythings went against him.
- Quick mention for Luther Head who, like Dahntay, had some quality minutes off the bench. Luther found his way to the rim, scoring 8 points on only 3 shots. He and Hibbert connected a few times.
- Bruno made a great point about the Bulls needing John Salmons and Tyrus Thomas down the stretch in this one. Salmons did the Pacers in for Milwaukee on Thursday and may very well have done the same thing tonight for the Bulls.