Pacers can't hold off Bulls, Rose
There is no telling how long the surprising Chicago Bulls will last in the playoffs after producing the league's best record. Sometimes the teams that give the most effort during the regular season are exposed when the stakes are raised.
In the opening game of the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers forced the East's top seed to dig deep and discover how badly it wants to win.
Derrick Rose led the Bulls on a breathtaking 16-1 run to pull out an intense 104-99 victory on Saturday at the United Center. The soon-to-be-named MVP finished with 39 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel approached the loss from a common-sense perspective. There is only so much you can do to stop a force of nature such as Rose.
"The kid's out of this world," Vogel said. "He's got Allen Iverson's speed, Jason Kidd's vision, Chauncey Billups' shooting and Michael Jordan's athleticism. How do you guard that? We did a nice job on him. He was too much."
Here's a slice of the comeback: Rose hit Joakim Noah with a 40-foot pass for a dunk. Rose drove the lane and flipped in a shot after being fouled by 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert for a 3-point play. Rose spun into the lane and tossed in a one-hander over Hibbert. Rose drove and dished to Kyle Korver, who buried the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 48.4 seconds remaining.
"They basically dominated the entire game," Bulls veteran center Kurt Thomas said. "Fortunately, we have Derrick Rose and he wouldn't let us lose."
Pacers forward Danny Granger, who scored 24 points, offered a more colorful description of Rose leading the relentless comeback.
"It's like a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend," Granger said. "Every time you tell her you don't want to talk to her, she shows up at your door again. We kept making runs one after another and they kept coming back."
There were few signs of the Bulls' dominating defense until the situation became desperate. Indiana forward Tyler Hansbrough capped a personal 7-0 run by stripping the ball from Carlos Boozer, then delivering a fast-break dunk and 3-point play.
It was an eventful second half for the player affectionately known as "Psycho T." Late in the third quarter, Hansbrough was elbowed in the side of the head during a rebound battle with Thomas.
Hansbrough crumpled to the floor, then became wobbly on his way to the locker room and had to sit down briefly.
He returned to the game, though, and handed back a hard foul of his own the next time Rose drove into the lane. Bulls forward Luol Deng took exception and was given a technical foul for getting in Hansbrough's face.
Hansbrough started his 7-point streak on the next trip downcourt and the flurry put Indiana ahead 98-88 with 3:38 remaining. The upset appeared to be sealed, but the Pacers missed their final eight shots. Until then, Indiana shot 51 percent from the field.
"At the end of the game, guys tighten up or guys don't," Korver said. "That's just the way it always goes."
Whether this game was a wakeup call for the Bulls or a sign that this series will be a monster can't be answered right away. Vogel chose the second option.
"We should have won this game," he said. "We've been playing as well as anybody in the NBA the last few weeks, and this is going to be a series."
Mike McGraw is in his 12th season covering the Bulls for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago.