That's all I wanted to see: A complete performance from the Bulls, and maybe some public shaming of the Pacers for good measure.
The Bulls started out incredibly hot, shooting over 60% in the first quarter, led by Derrick Rose who proved early that the ankle wouldn't effect his game too much. This isn't to say that he didn't sometimes look less than 100% on that ankle, no matter what amateur physicians out there would say otherwise. A great performance from Rose can still occur even when he's not at full strength, and it doesn't mean he's suddenly unhurt.
But no matter Rose's status before this game, the important thing is not only did the Bulls find themselves so far ahead in the 4th quarter that he was able to sit it out, but getting rid of these damned Pacers means he has until Monday to rest.
The Pacers, in their uniquely annoying way, did hang around in this game more than they should've. Through some fortunate momentum-killing baskets and foul-drawing, the Pacers stayed within reach midway through the 3rd quarter. Derrick Rose was re-inserted into the game with 4 fouls, hit two three-pointers, had a spectacular block of Roy Hibbert, and the Bulls as a team never looked back.
Another hero in that run was Keith Bogans, who finished 5-7 from three-point range in one of his most productive games of the season, also providing some fine defensive work along the way. Perhaps not as noticeable, but nearly as effective, was the contribution from Taj Gibson. Playing 30 minutes as the Bulls starting frontcourt (like Rose) found themselves in foul trouble (and Kurt Thomas received an unexpected DNP), Taj finished with 10 and 7, and along with Joakim Noah was the defensive backbone for that 2nd half surge.
Noah was fantastic all night, and if this series has had one possibly important long-term benefit it's that we saw Jo round back into his peak form. He was incredibly active and aggressive on both ends, simultaneously outperforming and agitating his Pacer counterparts. While hit himself with a technical foul early in the game, Noah managed over the course of the game to cause the Pacers bigs to crumble, with Josh McRoberts getting himself ejected for going after Noah, and later Tyler Hansbrough nearly doing the same.
To someone who maybe isn't used to this team, Noah and the Bulls may have been a bit off-putting in their over-exuberance (bordering on taunting) throughout, but I think this series is one where such actions were deserved. The Pacers played hard, they played tough, they were borderline dirty. Which is expected given the talent gap they saw themselves in, but also means the Bulls should be able to enjoy themselves a bit when realizing they won't have to see their mugs anytime soon.
If the lessons from this series include the reemergence of Joakim Noah, it also has to give notice to the precipitous fall of Carlos Boozer. Booz finished a fairly miserable series with maybe his worst game yet: 2 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 fouls in under 16 minutes, and having to watch from the bench while his teammates took control of the game without him. As good as the Bulls looked tonight, it's still just the 8th seed they just beat, and to win the NBA title they need Boozer to be better.
But as with everything else, with Boozer only good can come of getting this series over with, and resting. And celebrating the first playoff series win since 2007.