It was a lot easier than the first four games – The Chicago Bulls beat the Indiana Pacers in an anti-climatic game 5 (116-89) as Derrick Rose (25 points) returned in the third quarter to put the game beyond any doubt and send the combative Pacers to their summer vacations.
Despite Carlos Boozer playing only 16 minutes (injured his toe), the Chicago Bulls gave their most impressive and dominant performance of the post season thus far after four rugged and rough games to kick off the series.
Maybe it was the loss in game 4 that shook them up a bit, maybe they just needed to adjust to the playoffs. The outside shooting was spot on (14-31, 45.2%) while the Pacers struggled to put points on the board. Noah had one of his best games, especially in the first half, finishing with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Derrick Rose, playing on a hurt left ankle, did the job in the first and third quarters, finishing with 25 points and 6 assists. Loul Deng with 24 points, six boards and 7 assists was the best player for the Bulls all night long (41 minutes), hitting three tres. Keith Bogans was the big surprise with 5 from beyond the arc, finishing with a rare 15 points for him.
The game was made easy for two reasons – Rose/Deng in the third quarter and Chicago being agressive from the get go. They’ve been chasing Indiana all series long. This time the defense clawed, Noah elbowed and hustled. The Pacers had no chance to come back, unused to being behind in this series.
Danny Granger finished with 20 points, Tyler Hansbrough with 14 but the rest of the guys weren’t up for the challenge. Darren Collison scored only 7 points and in general, the Pacers struggled to create anything from the back-court, leading to very poor shooting numbers (39% from the field).
What’s next? Chicago have a few days of rest now, waiting for the Atlanta-Orlando series to end, giving Rose and Boozer more time to heal from their aching bones. What looked like smooth sailing before the playoffs started, at least till the Conference finals, can’t be taken lightly now. The Pacers caught the Bulls a little complacent in the beginning of games, leading Chicago to a wild fourth quarter chase in games 1-4.
But in game 5 it seemed that something clicked for the Bulls. The aggression, the intensity and defense was there from the first minute. I think they’ve realized that this can’t be just the Derrick Rose show. The probable MVP can do some amazing stuff, like this block on Hibbert –
WOW! But back to the matter at hand – Chicago won’t go all the way if they resort to ‘let Rose slice through the defense for 40 minutes’. Even he wears down, as his ankle injury shows. Deng has been getting the job done, but Noah and Boozer have to get more involved and efficient on offense. I don’t think there’s much to worry about defensively.
As for the Pacers – We became a team under him said Hansbrough about their head coach Frank Vogel. Next season might be another step up for the Pacers, if there even is a next season.