"I am the puppet-master, I pull the strings" (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
In all practicality, the Bulls probably don't need to do anything different to beat the Pacers, and likely in an easy fashion. But this isn't just about the first round, it's getting the team as great as it can be for the rounds to come. There are some minor adjustments to what the Bulls can do for Monday night's game.
There's the difference between playing different players, and simply hoping that the same players play different. I think the latter applies to Carlos Boozer. Boozer was playing at such a low level that it was reminiscent of the couple of regular season games where Thibodeau sat him for entire fourth quarters, and I think if it was a regular season game he may have. And despite what Boozer was showing on Saturday, I think Thibs did the right thing in staying by him, because the Bulls need him to play better, instead of not play at all.
The initial concern with Boozer is if he can slow down Hansbrough, but here's hoping that Hansbrough slows himself down by his own not-that-great-ness. Per Hoopdata, Tyler Hansbrough was 7-10 from outside 15 feet, and he typically makes under 2 of those a game at 43%. Of course, when you're wide open as Hansbrough was, the percentage will go up, but in a way it's the shot you want him to take: we've also seen his ability to blow past Boozer on a drive, and he does have the skill of drawing fouls (through being weird and psycho-y, but still). Both Noah and Taj had their difficulties with Hansbrough as well, but I wonder if it wouldn't make sense to switch Boozer on the less-threatening Roy Hibbert to start the game. Hibbert obviously has a huge height advantage, but Boozer is quite strong for his size and if the Pacers want to work Roy Hibbert that often it's ultimately a good thing for the Bulls.
Boozer's point-and-yell-instead-of-move defense isn't going to change much, but his offensive production should. The look of difficulty Booz had in getting clean looks was worrisome, whether it was seeing his shot blocked, altered, or him getting caught with an offensive foul trying to create space. The Pacers bigs really shouldn't be this much trouble for him, especially in terms of speed, and I look for Boozer to cause contact yet this time get himself to the line instead of sending it the other way.
Now clearly Derrick Rose isn't sitting (in fact, I was surprised he came out at all in that 2nd half considering the deficit), but he can make some adjustments on defense as well. Not sure if it was strategy by Thibs or lackadaisical play that had Rose going under high screens for Collison or AJ Price, but each were able to punish the Bulls from long distance. They don't seem to be the kind of threats to where he couldn't play either more straight-up. The Pacers are making Rose work on both ends, but he seems to have responded to the physicality well, and if he was ever going to be surprised with it he definitely won't be going forward.
To the players who could see a change in playing time. I referenced it in the recap that this may be the end of the 'bench mob' as a unit, but in games where the Bulls are more comfortably ahead (which I expect in this series, anyway) it's likely to at least be tried in first halves. Kurt Thomas may have earned himself even more playing time in being 'physical' or a 'veteran' or whatever, but I worry (even though the playoffs means more days off) that he can be counted on for that much, that often. It'd be great to see Asik worked back into Thibs good graces, but fairly or not, Omer hasn't exactly played well in the face of his minutes reduction.
And now to the Bull-tattooed SG in the room: what to do with Keith Bogans. Bogans was off on Saturday and missed badly on a couple of his attempts. But the problem isn't just that he's missing, but that he's so not-even-a-threat that it allows the Pacers to feel free to switch their PG off of Rose and put a larger defender (namely Paul George) on him. Not saying that's always the best strategy either (oddly enough it was speculated that Dahntay Jones would get time on Rose, but he received a DNP), but I don't like that it's made available to the opponent at all. My guy Doug at ChicagoNow argues pulling Bogans entirely, but admits it's likely never going to happen, and I agree on both points. Thibs has made it this far with his decision to keep Bogans in the starting lineup, and pulling him now would make him seem out-of-sorts even moreso than benching Boozer on a bad night (at least he's done the latter before once or twice). But considering the precious feelings of the team (and I don't even know if I'm being sarcastic anymore on that) if Bogans can't be pulled the stints should at least be reduced, from Game One's 17 minutes down to around 10. May not make that much of a difference (and hell, if Bogans just hits a couple treys it's all good), but the cascading effect of getting Brewer in faster, and then Korver in faster, could mean a lot.