It wasn’t a very good night for Derrick Rose. After averaging 37.5 points in the first two games, the Pacers finally found a way of handling Rose. Sure, they sent him to the line (13-15), but they managed to contain him for most of the game. Most of the game.
The Pacers were up by five in the beginning of the fourth. They dropped double digit leads in both Game 1 & 2. It happened to them again. Chicago’s defense clamped up in the fourth, Indiana’s shooting continued to be horrendous, countering their fantastic defense, especially in the paint (Boozer and Noah combining for only 15 points). Chicago scored only 16 points in the paint as opposed to the Pacers 38. And then there was Rose, shooting with 4 for 18 from the field.
It didn’t matter. Rose doesn’t care about how he did all night. He plays the same way, driving with full strength, in the first or the fourth. He drove inside with 17.8 second on the clock and found his way to the tough lay up amid Pacers defenders, making it 86-84. Danny Granger missed a potential game winner (We didn’t get the look we wanted) and Ronnie Brewer sealed the deal.
Again, the Pacers can say they outplayed the Bulls or at least were level with them despite the difference in records, standings and pre-series opinions. They play strong, tought basketball. They really disrupt the Bulls’ big man game. Tyler Hansbrough is making life impossible for Boozer who has shown frustration more than once in this series. Still, it’s not enough. Rose always finds a way. Deng makes the big shots (21 points, 6 rebounds and assists) and despite not being as successful offensively, Boozer and Noah are great on defense, especially in the fourth.
Frank Vogel has put a mean fighting spirit into his players. Still, after coming so close in all three games, frustration is building up. They can’t finish the games. They have a real problem executing in the fourth and in clutch. If you ask me, fighting spirts tend to vaporize slowly after each failure to win.
There’s still another home game, but it seems like the Pacers have already given the Bulls their best shot. Chicago haven’t been playing their best basketball this series, a problem no doubt, but still do enough to get by. Sometimes it means the teams has serious problems. Sometimes, depends on your point of view, it’s referred to as champions grit, toughness or whatever. Doing enough to pull through the tough stretches. With Derrick Rose, the Bulls have a shot no matter how bad they’re shooting or playing. They just play too well in the fourth –
Kyle Korver for example. He just plays his role perfectly, scoring 12 points (5-6) last night including two tre’s in the fourth quarter. Korver is now 5-5 this series shooting three’s in the fourth quarter. He led the NBA this season in fourth quarter 3pt field goals. On the other end, the Bulls are limiting the Pacers to 35% from the field in the fourth quarters. With that kind of defense down the stretch and the execution that comes back in the crucial minutes, the Bulls have all the reasons in the world to feel confident about this series and what comes after.