The playoffs are all about matchups and adjustments with individual talent sometime taking a back seat to execution. Although, having a guy like Derrick Rose doesn’t hurt.
The Indiana Pacers finished Game One shooting 46 percent, but shot 50 percent before the Bulls tightened things up defensively in the fourth quarter. They also finished shooting 10-18 behind the three-point line with Danny Granger (4-8), Darren Collison (2-2), Brandon Rush (2-2), AJ Price (2-3) each taking advantage of a defense that held teams to a league best 33 percent on three-point field goals during the season.
“You can’t close short,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau after Game One concluded. “We want to contain the ball better, we want to protect the paint and from there, you have to close out. You have to close hard to [the three-point line] and we didn’t do that. We gave them too much air-space, they were getting clean looks and they made them.”
Collison and Price benefited from their defenders going under screens during pick-and-rolls so that’s one area that should be shored up and Collison’s penetration off those screens also led to clean looks from outside. The attention given to Collison and Granger particularly in the second half also allowed open midrange looks for Tyler Hansbrough.
“It’s on us to make adjustments because we definitely have to make some and play better,” said Joakim Noah after the game.
While no one should expect Indiana to shoot as high as they did in Game One especially after a day for Chicago to dissect game film, if the Pacers continue to get clean looks, the Bulls will only be faced with similar situations.
Rose scored 39 points, while going 19-21 from the free throw line, outshooting the entire Pacers team (11-17). Every time he drove the lane, Rose was met at the rim by a body and often times, a hard foul. While he took most in stride, he and his teammates did take exception to some of the hacking he received.
“I consider Derrick like a little brother to me so when you see him getting hit like that, it’s tough,” said Noah. “You want to do something about it but we have to keep our composure and understand that we can’t let it happen all the time like that.”
Luol Deng picked up a technical after going after Hansbrough for delivering a hard foul on Rose, but if Indiana is going to continue to defend by just funneling him into the nearest body, Chicago’s big most meet the challenge and send hard fouls right back, meaning Kurt Thomas.
It will be interesting to see how Indiana’s defensive schemes change against Rose. While they were almost semi-successful in a way in just making things tough for Rose, he did miss all 9 of his three-point attempts, all of them seeming short and he vowed that won’t be the case next time. He was also met with very little defensive resistant by Collison which allowed him the access in the lane and get the Pacers bigs in foul trouble. The concentration on protecting the drive also helped in the Bulls pulling down 21 offensive rebounds which led to 19 second chance points.
“We’re going to have a couple different guys guard him at different times and we really just have to guard him with guys,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel before game one. It remains to be seen if that will be the case at all, as their best perimeter defenders — James Posey (inactive) and Dahntay Jones — didn’t see any time on the floor.
The Pacers also got a break because of Carlos Boozer (12 points, 6 rebounds) being in foul trouble throughout the game. After 8 first quarter points, he was never able to establish an offensive rhythm after that.
The chess match now begins on counteracting the other’s moves. Vogel told reporters after game one that his team should have won and that he expected it to be a long series. Against a detailed-orientated-Thibodeau coached team, he better hope his his statement proves true.