Monday, April 11, 2011
Talking a good game
By Melissa Isaacson ESPNChicago.com
By Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series this weekend, Pacers forward Danny Granger will likely be turned into a combination of Rex Ryan and PackerJoe from Kishwaukee.
Danny Granger, who is averaging 20.5 points per game, said the Pacers will be happy to face the Bulls instead of the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs.
In the annals of trash talking, the veteran's recent comments about the Chicago Bulls more closely resemble something that may have once come from the mouth of Steve Kerr. Just the same, it is not wrong to assume that it will be absorbed, digested and cranked out as high-octane fuel by oh, say, Derrick Rose, whenever necessary.
For those of you who may have missed it, asked if he'd rather face the Celtics or the Bulls in the first round, Granger chose the Bulls.
"Boston's a different monster," he said. "They don't have the best record in the East, but they won championships; they know how to do it. They have four, five guys you have to worry about.
"Chicago, they go as Derrick Rose goes. If you make a concerted effort to stop Derrick Rose, you have a better chance of beating them."
Trouble is, there isn't much data to prove either sentence since Rose only goes one speed, and concerted effort or not, he is not often stopped.
Just the same, fun has been had by all in the first -- and likely only -- salvo launched by either team.
The Bulls will win, I believe, in five games, though no one will be shocked if it's a sweep. But the Pacers aren't quite the pushovers they seem.
They have won 10 of their past 15 games, including victories over the Bulls, Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks (twice). And Granger, who is averaging 20.5 points and is a better-than-average 3-point shooter at 6-foot-8, is the guy who is likely to have the ball in his hands if the game is on the line.
The Pacers' 115-108 victory over the Bulls on March 18 was without Carlos Boozer in the lineup, but despite Rose's 42 points (including 18 free throws). When the Bulls won in the teams' other three meetings, they held Indiana to less than 90 points.
Their 110-89 victory at the United Center on Jan. 29 was the last for Pacers coach Jim O'Brien, who was fired by team president Larry Bird the following day and replaced by assistant coach Frank Vogel on an interim basis.
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To win the series as quickly as possible, the Bulls (60-20) will have to slow the Pacers (37-44), forcing them into a half-court game, and certainly coach of the year candidate Tom Thibodeau is up to that task.
The Bulls may have their hands full with Roy Hibbert, the Pacers' 7-2, 278-pound center, though his lack of playoff experience should offset any serious threat.
The Pacers also throw the hyper Tyler Hansborough at you. The 6-9 power forward, who is averaging 11 points this season, is as likely to score 30 -- which he did against the Knicks -- as he is to score five, which he did against the Celtics.
The Bulls' bench is one of the best in the league, worthy of Thibodeau going with a deeper rotation than is customary in the playoffs. But the Pacers may be up to the task with a veteran group in 6-9 guard and one-time starter Mike Dunleavy, 6-10 forward Josh McRoberts and 6-6 guard Dahntay Jones, along with 3-point shooter Brandon Rush.
As for Granger, he may not be entirely wrong about Rose. But the MVP-to-be is averaging 27 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds against the Pacers this season. And he has this stubborn streak when it comes to facing teams that have recently beaten the Bulls.
Or recently insulted them.
As wimpy as the perceived insult might be.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.