By John Carroll
Simply put the biggest difference between the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers is Derrick Rose. The Bull have him and the Pacers do not. When Tom Thibodeau needs a basket at the end of the game he gives the ball to Derrick Rose and he finds a way to get to the rim and finish. When Frank Vogel needs a basket for his team he has no one that can create a basket on their own. Simply put that is why the Pacers are down 3-0 in this series. The Pacers have done everything humanly possible to win games in this series. They should have won Game 1 and they could have won Game 3.
Give the Pacers all the credit in the world, they do not look or feel like an eight seed. They did not back down one bit to the Bulls last night in Game 3. They played with tremendous energy, challenged everything that the Bulls threw at them and had a chance with the game tied 84-84 with 1:20 to go. The Bulls have never led by more than seven points in the first three games. This may turn out to be the most competitive series of the eight going on in the first round of the NBA. That still will not make the fans of Indiana, or the coaches and players of the Pacers feel any better. The Pacers have done everything right in this series except one thing. They have been unable to execute offensively when the game is on the line. They just cannot stay away from poor possessions, where they have to settle for mediocre shots as the clock is running down. This is a by product of two things: the quality of Chicago’s defense and the lack of a go to scorer for Indiana who can create his own shot, take defenders off the dribble with the game on the line. Danny Granger is a stud and he scored 21 points last night on 10-21 from the field. He kept the Pacers in the game late in the fourth quarter, but he is not Derrick Rose. You cannot just give him the ball in an isolation situation up top or on the wing and expect that he is going to get you a bucket. The Pacers inability to close out games due to their lack of a go to scorer is the single most important reason that they are not up 2-1 in this series. I truly believe that if they had that guy the Bulls would be in big trouble in this series.
Game 4 Adjustments
Give the Indiana Pacers a lot of credit. They have done a masterful job defending Derrick Rose in the past two games. In Game 3 they held Rose to 4-18 from the field for 23 points and limited his assists to only 2. Frank Vogel utilized both Paul George and Dahntay Jones on Rose throughout the game. They have used double teams at random times on his isolations, and they have played excellent pick and roll defense on him by trapping and not allowing him to turn the corner. The Pacers defense has been active, and sharp and it created 15 Bull turnovers in Game 3. Look for the Pacers to continue this same strategy in Game 4, because it is working and it is giving them an excellent chance to win every game. Unfortunately for the Pacers on the most important pick and roll, in Game 3 with less than :30 to go in the game the Pacers did not execute their pick and roll coverage and Rose got to the rim for the winning basket. Hard to believe how good they were all game long and at the most crucial time they could not execute their blitz/ double team and get the ball out of his hands.
There is nothing that the Pacers can do between Game 3 and 4 to change their offensive woes. They are an incomplete team, that needs a low post scorer and a break down 1-1 isolation scorer. Without those two components they are going to continue to push teams to the brink because of their coaching, energy, and collective resolve but come up short. The Pacers have a low post player in Roy Hibbert, but he is either too young or not good enough. Hibbert continuously gets the ball passed to him inside and comes up empty. He was 3-12 in Game 3. Hibbert is still too raw and not tough enough to win playoff games. Is he good enough for a regular season game when the opponent is playing back to back or 4 games in 5 nights. But he is not ready for prime time playoff basketball. In the playoffs you need a big man that you can throw the ball to like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Andrew Bynum, Tim Duncan, etc. Big men that command double teams or can power the ball to the rim. In addition they need a perimeter guy who can take his defender off the dribble. The Bulls are a smart defensive team. They knew coming out of a time out with 17.8 seconds up two points who was going to get the ball. Danny Granger had scored 8 of the Pacers final 10 points. The problem is that you have to run screens and action to get Granger the ball and then opponents know how to load or double him and make someone else beat them. Without these two types of weapons the Pacers will remain a competitive team but an incomplete one at the same time.
Look for the Bulls to grind out another win in Game 4. These games are not pretty but they are exciting. The Bulls only shot 38.9% from the field and scored 88 points in Game 3, but they held the Pacers to only 37.9 % shooting and only 84 points. The Bulls found themselves down 70-65 with 9:20 and they proceeded to gut out a 10-0 run. This is who they are. This is why they win. They can stop their opponent when it counts and they have the best player in the NBA on their team. Derrick Rose can get a shot for himself or any of his teammates with the game on the line. Give the Bulls credit for being able to grind in the playoffs. It is how you win games this time of year. There a very few easy baskets during late April and May. Games become half court battles and a test of wills. The Bulls have the ability to do both and that is why they will close this series out in four or five games.
Prediction: Bulls win Game 4