While the Chicago Bulls and their fans are undoubtedly grateful to be in the driver’s seat following Monday night’s 96-90 Game 2 victory over the Indiana Pacers, you can’t quite shake the feeling that the Bulls shouldn’t have to be working this hard.
Then again, after a weekend which saw the top two seeds out west upset and generally competitive games all around, it may be reasonable to posit that this is just the way these NBA playoff are destined to unfold.
Any reasonable hoops fan would argue that the Bulls had no business emerging victorious from Monday’s contest. A slightly more radical observer would say that, by all accounts, the Bulls perhaps ought to be on the wrong end of the 2-0 series advantage they currently possess.
Still in all, the Bulls stood tall on Monday, thanks to another timely 3-point bomb from Kyle Korver in the with 1:04 left in the 4th quarter and airtight free throw shooting down the stretch to put the game away.
This is, of course, before you mention that Derrick Rose threw up a 36-8-6 on a night where it didn’t seem like he ever truly found his rhythm. If I can become the 1,435,764th sports writer to say this: Rose is an incendiary talent. On Monday, it took him awhile to get his shot in order–he finished 44 percent from the floor–and turned the ball over six times. But for the second time in as many games, he put his head down and poured in huge shots down the stretch and made the freebies when they were given to him. It’s the kind of game all superstars eventually have. Things weren’t exactly jiving like normal, but you have to find a way to patch together a winning effort.
Rose’s effort was particularly impressive when you consider that his supporting cast amounted to little more than a rumor for large stretches of the game. While Carlos Boozer’s stats (17 points, 16 rebounds) look impressive on paper, he regularly got cooked on the defensive end and was a frustrating 5-of-9 from the charity stripe. And the less said about Luol Deng’s (23 percent from the floor) and Joakim Noa’sh (20 percent) offensive “contributions,” the better.
On the other side, it’s tough to imagine how the Pacers must be feeling now. For two straight games, they’ve gone jab for jab with the NBA’s top-seeded club and have nothing more than two moral victories (read: losses) to show for it. Some of their charmed touch from Game 1 seemed to abate as Tyler Hansbrough (6 points, 6 rebounds) was reminded that not every 18-footer you jack up is destined to fall and Roy Hibbert looked frustrated by Noah’s agitation in the post.
It certainly didn’t help that Darren Collison (8 points, 2 assists) sprained his left ankle stepping on a cameraman as the first half came to a close.
It seems incredibly likely that the Bulls will take this series in four or five games. That said, don’t think for a moment that this group is under the impression that this sort of lackluster effort will suffice against the Eastern Conference heavyweights awaiting them in the coming rounds. With two close calls under their belt, I think it’s fair to project a thorough 15-point thrashing Thursday night in Indianapolis. Then again, that’s what I would have guessed we were in store for on Monday.
For Indiana, it’s time to find out how they answer the water and glass query. Are they encouraged to have hung with the Bulls for two games, further emboldening their considerable tenacity? Or will they be resigned to the fact that playing the role of first-round spoiler just not in the cards?
More answers to come on Thursday.
Tags: Basketball, Chicago Bulls