Game Notes: Pacers at Bulls
Chicago gets an ugly victory, but a win is a win.
by Bryan Crawford / @from_the_chi
The Bulls came into the game against the Pacers on Wednesday night at the United Center looking to bet back on the winning track. Coming off a four game winning streak last week, the Bulls dropped a tough one on the road against the remains of the Washington Wizards Monday—a game they should have won.
Currently sitting at 29-27 (6th in the East), the last two weeks of February have been pretty vanilla schedule wise. The Portland Trail Blazers are the only team over .500 that they have to play and they come to town on Friday. The first two weeks of March are a much different story though. Their next nine games are against Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas twice (at home and on the road), Utah, Orlando, and finally, Cleveland. They’ve really got their work cut out for them and any wins that they get during that stretch—or the entire month of March for that matter—won’t be easy. So all things considered, they couldn’t really afford to let that game in Washington slip away, but they most certainly can’t afford to lose any games to the Pacers who come in losers of five of their last six and who they’ll have to play again on Saturday.
And in spite of Indiana’s struggles of late, head coach Vinny Del Negro certainly wasn’t overlooking the Pacers or taking them for granted.
“Every game is difficult,” said Del Negro. “Everyone looks at records and different things, but that doesn’t matter. We’re not good enough to just say we’re going to show up. We have to go and play, and play aggressive, and play hard, and take them one at a time. Tonight’s [game] is against Indiana. We know that they’ve given us trouble in the past. They can score the ball at a high rate and we’re going to have to be effective.”
Depending on who you were rooting for, it was either an ugly or a great quarter for your team. If your team was the Pacers, you’d have probably broken something. Then again, the way they’ve been playing this season, you might not have anything left to break. 7-24. That’s what the Pacers shot from the field in the opening quarter. That’s 29 percent. That’s not going to get it done. You’re not going to win very many games in this league playing like that. Danny Granger rejoined the team after missing Monday’s game in Dallas due to a very serious personal matter, played as if his mind was somewhere else.
He was 1-6 from the field and was getting absolutely destroyed by Luol Deng. In fact, if the team you were rooting for was the Bulls, you were more than pleased with the way they were played in the first. There was a moment in the game where I looked up at the scoreboard at the Bulls were up 15-4. It got out of hand that quickly. With a little more than a minute left on the clock, the Bulls were up 23 and the game looked like it was over.
It may sound cliché, but this is the NBA… Everybody makes runs.
After one, Bulls lead 37-18.
Whatever Head Coach Jim O’Brien said to his team between the first and second quarter, it certainly got through to them because they came out smoking. Correction, Brandon Rush and Danny Granger came out smoking. After not being able to hit anything in the first, the three’s from Rush and Granger started falling and it was their production that basically cut the lead from 19 points at the beginning of the quarter, to tying the game and then going up 4 points by halftime.
Indiana outscored Chicago 36-21 in the second and by the time halftime came, SLAM’s very own Aggrey Sam who now writes for Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, passed me in the hallway and said “Sacramento.” “Bite your tongue,” I shot back. But he was right. The game had that kind of feel to it, like things were about to take a turn down the wrong road. But this is a much different Bulls team from the one two months ago and they would quickly right the ship.
At halftime, Chicago leads 58-54.
If you like buckets then this was the quarter for you. Everybody who played on both teams scored, but nobody was scoring like Luol Deng. He’s been the most consistent player on the Bulls all season and he was going to work. But if you know anything about Lu, you know he does his work quietly and this game was no different. By the end of the quarter he’d already scored 29 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the game on 9-13 shooting from the field.
The strange thing is that it didn’t really seem like he’d had that many points.
But Danny Granger, ever the competitor, knew Luol was getting the best of him so he started to pick his own game up. Watching the one-on-one, “I score, you score” game between the two SF’s matched up against each other certainly made for some good basketball, I’ll tell you that. I still can’t believe it though. Luol Deng vs. Danny Granger? Wow. Who saw that one coming?
The other player quietly having a great game for the Bulls was Derrick Rose. This wasn’t one of those games where he did any one thing that stood out like he usually does, instead he just did everything well. He was scoring, distributing, and rebounding the ball and by the end of the quarter, he was flirting with a triple double with 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists.
The Bulls took control of the game again in this quarter outscoring the Pacers 37-28 (I told you they were getting buckets).
Bulls lead 95-82 after three.
The Bulls were still getting consistent production out of their players and for the Pacers, TJ Ford finally decided to show up. He dropped 10 points in the quarter and led all players on both teams in scoring, but it was too little, too late. I give a lot of credit to the Indiana Pacers, they’re not a very good team, but last night they were very scrappy and they really fought the Bulls. But it was to no avail. After the Bulls regained control of the game in the third quarter, there really wasn’t much the Pacers could do.
The highlight of the night came on a lob from Jannero Pargo to Derrick Rose (who missed his triple-double by one rebound and two assists) that put a charge into the handful of people who were still in the stadium. By the way, from here on out I will be referring to Pargo by the new moniker I’ve given him, The Notorious APG (attempts per game). When he gets in the game, he doesn’t waste any time in getting shots up.
It was an up and down game and a really ugly win for the Bulls who downed the Pacers 120-110.
Jim O’Brien gave the quickest post-game interview I think I’ve ever seen. Clocking in at exactly one minute, he spent most of the time talking and not really answering questions. When asked if he was happy about having Danny Granger back in the lineup he responded with, “It doesn’t matter, we got burned.” He did offer some praise for Derrick Rose though. “He’s a great player. He’s just a great point guard, one of the premier point guards in the League, maybe soon to become the best point guard in the League.”
The Bulls gave up 110 points to a team that only averages 99 points per game, but that sort of thing can happen when guys are making shots. Said Vinny Del Negro after the game, “We got off to a good start, but we let them back in it in the second quarter. They shot the ball very well. It was a game of runs tonight.” He added, “It wasn’t the best game we’ve played, obviously. But we found a way to get it done.”
As for Derrick Rose and his performance, he was his usual humble self after the game and didn’t make too much of missing out on his first NBA triple-double. When asked if he was aware that he was flirting with it he said, “Yeah, but I’ll probably never get a triple double in this league. I wasn’t too worried about it. I was just trying to win the game.” When asked why he felt he’d never get a triple-double he said, “It’s hard, man. It’s hard. I think I’ve only gotten one in high school and one in grammar school; two in my whole lifetime. And you’ve got people that’s getting… What, LeBron is on like his twenty-seventh or something like that? I’m not even near them guys, Jason Kidd and all them. I just want to win games.”
And when asked about Luol Deng’s 31 point performance, Rose said, “You should have seen him earlier. He had a lot of Ben-Gay and other stuff he was putting on his body. He looked like an old man, but he went out there and played through it.”