"Oh sorry man, was my leg there? Uh...hold that shot though, you really look like you're in pain. Oh, and you scuffed my Timberlands" (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
It's been two games and not four, but maybe we're simply seeing how the Bulls will win in these playoffs. A stout defense that keeps games close, and Derrick Rose to take them over. By the time Rose had his amazing 3-point play and then kicked out to Korver for a three on the next possession, it was tough to muster more than a polite clap. Especially after seeing it happen in game one, this result seemed inevitable, no? And when the Bulls got the lead, I couldn't envision it going away: The Bulls have Derrick Rose on every possession, and it seems like in the NBA when you don't have a star like that, you pretend you do. Though they did try and run a real offense including a Roy Hibbert post-up late (he committed an offensive foul, and if that was a bad call, he traveled too), the Pacers response was a lot of Danny Granger pretending he was as good as Rose, with predictable results.
This is a different story than the regular season team that would use 48 minutes of consistent pressure from a deep team to get the second-highest point differential in the league. But we've been told the playoffs are different, and maybe this is is all of Thibs' grand plan? Clearly he can't care too much about offense when Keith Bogans continues to start, Kurt Thomas is the first big off the bench (though he was great again, maybe there is something to veteran savvy), and the Bulls clearly-best lineup (Korver with the starters) is rarely in the game until the final stretch. But maybe it's just about keeping it close, and having that lineup (and Rose) win it out in the end.
Will it work against non-Pacers opponents? Tough to say, but the Pacers have certainly looked to be better than their 37-win record. While predictably some of their fluke-y performances in game one subsided (down to 35% from 3, Hansbrough was aggressive but went 2-12 and proved not to be a 70% jumpshooter) they're playing the Bulls physically, forcing turnovers, and making the Bulls non-Rose players look inept when finishing inside. However they're not able to take that next step and secure the ball, as the Bulls once absolutely owned the offensive glass. The Pacers once again used Darren Collison as a way to keep Rose working on D, and maybe the game turns out a bit different if his ankle injury isn't suffered (at the hands of those darn cameramen, though at least that guy was within the legal space for them). But then again, maybe it's not different at all? Maybe there's nothing the Pacers can really do (especially if they can't rebound) if the Bulls closing unit is this good.
And when their closing player is this good. Rose had fewer turnovers than you'd think (6, from someone who has the ball all the time) and finished with 36 points on 25 shots. Another spectacular game getting to the line and converting, and in the second half finally hit his first two three-pointers in the series.
The Bulls as a team were able to keep getting to the line, with Carlos Boozer a much bigger contributor in that facet (9 attempts). Booz had a much better game, finishing with 16pts, 17rebs in 42 minutes (staying out of foul trouble this time), but still just seemed bad. Maybe it's because you could see the defensive lapses still and that the Pacers simply weren't converting. Or that he's perhaps never going to convert a dunk attempt in his career again. Between he and Deng and Noah (once again destroying the offensive glass, but not much else), they played decently enough, but the Bulls have to expect more when playing in future rounds. Right?
We were told the playoffs would be different, and so far we've seen a different team. The Bench Mob is dead (under 2 minutes for Asik, Brewer looks a bit hurt), but CJ Watson had a nice game, made more necessary due to Rose's early 2 fouls, and Korver hit his biggest shot attempt. The rotation's changed (though the starting lineup remains), and you have to wonder if we'll start to see Korver earlier and more often going forward...but maybe this is part of the plan to keep the team's best unit in the chamber until it's needed. Can it continue to work?
Another fun part about the playoffs is that we have a couple days off to discuss it.