In the Indiana Pacers last two victories, they were able to take care of business against teams they should’ve won against. With the rise in play for Darren Collison, the team was hoping to cash in on their success and string together their first three game winning streak against a slumping (in relevant terms) Chicago Bulls team. Unfortunately, despite a positive first quarter, the game went south in the second quarter and never recovered. The Pacers finished the night at just 32.6% shooting, their second worst shooting effort of the year, salvaged by some late baskets by Collison and Danny Granger.
The Pacers trailed just four at the end of the first quarter, and had the game at four with under five minutes go to in the second quarter before the Bulls rattled off an easy 10-0 run that couldn’t be matched by any effort Indiana was putting forth offensively. Chicago’s defensive efforts were well above what the Pacers were expecting and it cost them as the game went on. Collison struggled the entire night, and almost if by design, the offense as a whole struggled. Certainly wasn’t much help that T.J. Ford had his fair share of problems on every side of the ball imaginable.
But as much as you can praise Chicago’s defense, some of the blame for Indiana’s night has to go to their offense. The Pacers weren’t putting themselves in a good position with any shots they were taking. Even high percentage shots were ugly and generally uncalled for. In fact, the Pacers around the rim were among the worst you’ll see in any level of play, much less at the highest level of the sport. Indiana shot a paltry 13-44, translating to 29.5%, in shots at the rim. That number drops to 24% when you take away Granger’s last three, successful drives, to the rim.
The biggest violators fell on Granger (5-10, 2-7 before the final three drives), Roy Hibbert (0-4, to cap an always exciting two-point night), and Collison (1-7), though to be fair, no one deserves a pass from their efforts inside. The score remained workable the remainder of the night, sitting between 9 and 16 points for the rest of the night. In fact, the only thing keeping the score as close as it was were the offensive rebounding efforts of Indiana, a road paved, albeit unsuccessfully, by Jeff Foster.
In the end, every time Indiana made a push, Chicago was sure to answer. Derrick Rose finished with 29 points, each point in the second half feeling like a momentum changer. If there were any fans curious about Rose’s place as an MVP candidate, it was answered in tonight’s game. In the end, Indiana fell in a score reflective of the entire second half at 99-86, snapping their fourth two-game winning "streak."
After the jump, a little flash and a little dash:
- If you’re not sure who to highlight in a game surrounded by such dreck, it’s always wisest to look at The Never Ending Story Jeff Foster. Foster finished with six points and a season high 15 rebounds. He did a lot of good things for Indiana tonight, even if he couldn’t quite do enough, and couldn’t get any real help from anywhere else. Mike Dunleavy also had a certifiably passable night, finishing with 13 points and 3 three pointers, but that’s about what you should expect from Dunleavy on most nights.
- The other bright spot belonged to the rookie Paul George. George once again showed up to play. His active defense and uncanny ability to find the basket amongst a sea of bricks allowed him to showcase his abilities in a generally positive sense, even if his final numbers couldn’t help the outcome. He did get considerable burn at 25 minutes, and came away with a -1 for his efforts. That’s noteworthy, I suppose.
- Tyler Hansbrough spent most of the second half as a cheerleader, a rather confusing byproduct of Jim O’Brien Small Ball and James Posey’s Unstoppable Intangibles. Hansbrough looked very much like the thing the team needed to keep Carlos Boozer in check, frustrating the vet at numerous checkpoints in the first quarter. He also finished with 12 points and got to the line, even though his rebounding numbers were less than desired, still had a generally positive night. It’s hard to say whether him playing in any of the game’s final 17 minutes would’ve made a difference, so I hesitate before suggesting he was the missing cog in tonight’s final score.
- Danny Granger finished with an inefficient 22 points on 8-23 shooting. Darren Collison as well painstakingly rose his night to 4-16 and finished with 12 for his efforts. The Bulls game plan was simple and effective: stop these two, and the game is ours. Neither player was able to get good looks, though that seems more an excuse considering how poorly each of these two played when they got into the paint.
- So who do you to turn two when your two most consistent scorers are in trouble? How about Roy Hibbert? He finished 1-8 from the field? Guess not him. Brandon Rush was invisible to the retina most of the night, and goodness, T.J. Ford really left for a lot of head shaking. Tom shared in the game thread that a scout next to him was killing Ford’s efforts following a rather head scratching play where C.J. Watson left Ford for dead on the side of the road (car joke!) and drove for an easy layup. Considering that was hardly the last of Ford’s negative play tonight, which included botched defensive efforts, typical dribble/fake(x12) offense, and driving the lane to be quadruple-teamed at the rim with no outlet, I can’t imagine that was the last of the criticism.
To be honest, I don’t know that the end result was necessarily a shock. Despite the positive play in the last two games and Chicago’s recent road struggles, the Bulls are still a superior opponent than Philadelphia and a banged up Dallas team. Even still, the effort and overall play was disconcerting. The Pacers could’ve used this as a springboard to a crucial four game road trip that begins on Monday. Playing the Clippers, Warriors, Blazers, and Nuggets (with or without Melo) means the Pacers are looking at four games they could win or four games they could lose. I’m not sure at all what to expect, but here we go anyway, as it kicks off with the quickly improving Clippers early Monday afternoon. These aren’t your November’s Clippers.