All of the games in this series have been close, even a game like this afternoon's where the Pacers tried their darndest to choke away a late 4th quarter double-digit lead. But this may have been the Bulls worst performance of the playoffs. Once again shooting terribly and turning over the ball too much (nearly of all of them in the first half, with 11), the Bulls were unable to make up for it at the FT line like they usually do. And whether it was the deficit being too much or Rose not being enough, he wasn't going to bail the Bulls out today.
The need to close out this series ASAP was heightened at the end of the first quarter by Rose's ankle sprain. Thankfully it wasn't on a Pacers foul (I wouldn't have handled the 'tough' talk that would've resulted), but did look pretty bad as Rose headed to the locker room. He soon returned, and played over 43 minutes, and was a reminder of similar sprains we've seen this season that always looked worst when they first happened. I think blaming the ankle on Rose's performance in the 2nd half is a bit too easy of an excuse, but his reliance on the 3-pointer seemed even more exaggerated in that time. Rose was 3-16 from the field after that sprain, and in a series where he lived at the line, only had 4 attempts today.
Some of that, I suppose, could be on the officials, as I didn't think they had the best game officiating the Bulls big men. Both Noah and Boozer battled foul trouble keeping their minutes relatively low. But it was two different ballgames for each: Noah seems to be completely back, scoring the first Bulls points off of his jumpshot, and the last Bulls run off the dribble (drawing a foul). Again, the rebounding and transition opportunities have always been there, but when he's a threat in half-court (and especially when Rose is trapped like he's been in this series) it's a huge boost, and the silver lining in game four.
Boozer, however, had another poor game, and continued leading the charge of non-Rose Bulls not being able to finish inside (Deng had a nice and-one in that last gasp run, but finished 5-14 from the field). Even on the rare occasion when Boozer did finish strong, he got a technical foul for staring down Roy Hibbert afterwards. If you're going to play bad, at least don't also play dumb.
Boozer did hit some jumpers, had 13 rebounds, and also passed well, but this Bulls team is starving for efficient offense from him and he looks completely incapable of delivering. Korver hit a late 3 but far less efficient on his shots today, Taj had zero points in over 16 minutes, and Bogans only attempted a single shot in over 19 minutes. Without Boozer playing well and certainly with Rose relatively slowed, there is just not enough offense. The Bulls have been lucky all series that their poor shooting and decision making hasn't been coming back to haunt them, because after all this is the Pacers, and their offense isn't that great. And it won't really ultimately matter since the Pacers won't have the ability to make the Bulls pay over the whole series, but it doesn't erase that fact that the Bulls have not been playing well offensively this series.
Mike Prada of SBNation suggested that maybe an actual loss (as opposed to playing similarly poorly and still winning) will be the best way for Thibs to get his message across to his team that this level of play isn't good enough. Knowing what we know (admittedly, that could be nothing) about Thibs and his team, I'm sure the message has been sent throughout. But perhaps it does take real consequences to make it properly noticed. And while it's still ultimately a minor setback, not getting this series over with and now dealing with a Rose ankle injury (on top of whatever else physically ails the team) is a real tangible failure.