Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel is walking a fine line as he
tries to keep his team competitive in its first-round playoff
series with the Chicago Bulls.
He wants his young players to remain confident after pushing
Chicago to the limit in the first two games, yet he doesn’t want
them to be satisfied while fans pat them on the back for testing
the top-seeded Bulls in a pair of losses at the United Center.
Chicago has a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Conseco Fieldhouse
for Game 3 on Thursday.
”We’ve just got to guard against everyone in the world telling
us how happy they are that we’re hanging in with them,” Vogel
said. ”We’re 0-2 against them.”
Vogel, still displaying the supreme confidence that has been his
trademark since taking over for Jim O’Brien at midseason, said he
expects the Pacers to bounce back.
”We’ve stood toe to toe with this team,” he said. ”We know we
can play with this team, we know we can beat this team. We expect
to beat this team in Game 3.”
Vogel figures the Bulls, who had the best record in the league
in the regular season, aren’t happy with being in a dogfight
against the only team that entered the playoffs with a losing
”All they’re hearing is how they’re not getting it done,” he
said. ”They’re going to come hungrier. We’ve got to come hungrier
than we’ve come.”
The Pacers lost double-digit leads in both of the first two
games before Chicago rallied. The Bulls know the games have been
closer than expected, but the most important thing is that they can
go up 3-0 with a win.
”We just don’t want to relax,” Bulls forward Luol Deng said.
”Whether we go out and win by 20 or win by one or whatever, I
think there’s always going to be something that we’re going to talk
about that we want to get better at. That’s just been us all year,
where we’re never too high and never too low. We just know what we
want to get to.”
To have a chance, Indiana will need to do a better job against
Derrick Rose. The MVP candidate averaged 37.5 points, seven
rebounds and six assists in the first two games.
The Pacers have primarily used Paul George to defend Rose,
looking to bother him with the rookie’s length and athletic ability
while using other players to help. Though Rose has put up numbers,
Vogel said the 6-foot-8 George has done a good job of making the
6-3 Rose work. George shrugs off the point totals, instead focusing
on the big picture.
”I don’t really look at it as, I’m going to come out here and
stop Derrick Rose,” George said. ”It’s really, I’m coming out
here to contain him. That’s really the best you can do. If he goes
for 30 shooting 25 shots, I would say I win.”
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said Rose will be ready for whatever
the Pacers bring.
”We’ve seen everything that we’re seeing,” he said. ”We’ve
seen traps. We’ve seen size on him. He just has to keep doing what
he’s doing. He’s doing fine.”
Indiana’s focus on Rose has had a ripple effect. Chicago had a
49-34 advantage on the boards in Game 1 and a 57-33 edge in Game
”They’re one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA,” Vogel
said. ”Derrick Rose puts pressure on your team to help, for your
bigs to constantly be helping, and if your bigs are constantly
helping, challenging his shots, then it leaves you vulnerable on
Pacers center Jeff Foster said the effort is there, but the
execution has to improve.
”We’ve just got to do a better job of putting bodies on guys
and coming up with the ball,” he said. ”Their penetration puts us
in difficult positions, but we have to overcome that and have a
total team effort on the glass.”
Collison’s availability is a major question for the Pacers. He
went down in the second quarter of Game 2 on Monday night after
stumbling into a cameraman on the baseline.
”Hoping for the best, but we’re listing him as doubtful,”
Vogel said. ”He’s very sore still. He’s going to try to give it a
go. I’m preparing to not have him.”
If Collison can’t go, A.J. Price would start and T.J. Ford would
back him up. Price had 13 points in 24 minutes in Game 2. Ford has
played sparingly this season, but he scored five points, including
a 3-pointer from beyond halfcourt, to tie the game at the end of
the third quarter of Game 2.
”Same focus, same mentality,” Ford said. ”I’m a veteran, I’ve
been in the playoffs before. I’ve been in this league a long time.
You always stay ready and stay prepared. My mentality is to come
out and perform.”
Thibodeau said the Pacers will be good either way.
”They have quality depth, not just up front, in their backcourt
too,” he said. ”They’re a deep team. At the beginning of the
year, they had injuries. Now they’re healthy. They’re good. They’re
a good team.”
Though Indiana is heading home, it might not seem that way if
Pacers fans don’t embrace the team. Indiana was last in the league
in attendance during the regular season while the Bulls were first,
and with Chicago being just three hours away, the threat of a
red-and-black takeover of Conseco Fieldhouse was a concern.
”We need to fill the building with blue and gold,” Vogel said.
”I’m asking all our fans, come out and support us. When we played
them here in the regular season, there were an awful lot of red
Vogel then joked that the Pacers have a plan to keep Bulls fans
”We’re going to have metal detectors out there to scan the
metal people are bringing in the building, but people who are
wearing red … they’re not going to get through the metal