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Pacers 95, Bulls 90: Indiana wrestles and keeps 2nd half lead to hand Bulls first home loss

On the bright side, if Brian Scalabrine hit that three with 22 seconds left and put the Bulls up for good, I may have had to shut down the blog and just troll the BaB Facebook page for likes with Scal mixtapes and photoshops. As it stood in reality, the shot missed, the rebound got away, and 9 seconds went off the clock before the Pacers had an easy dunk to put them up four.

Scal came in on a strange defensive substitution the possession prior, with Carlos Boozer playing with 5 fouls and him being all Boozer-y on defense and whatnot. Though it was a situation where having either Taj Gibson or Luol Deng healthy would've changed everything, inserting Omer Asik could've been workable with him taking Roy Hibbert and Noah switching to David West. Maybe Thibs reasoned that Scal was less likely to be called for a questionable foul, something that the Bulls bigs encountered for much of the second half. I can't as easily guess his reasoning soon afterwards to not have Kyle Korver in for the last-ditch effort down 4 points, outside of him, er, hitting only 6 of his last 24 three-point attempts. It likely wouldn't have mattered, but it was obvious how much the Pacers overplayed Rose and dared Noah (or anyone else) to do anything about it.

As far as Rose himself, he just didn't look completely right, though he did lead the team with 24 points. It seems that he can still do everything, just not all the time, and this was a 4th quarter where the Bulls needed him to completely take over as they were always close they never were able get the lead. Meanwhile, a difference for the Pacers this year looks to be that not only do they have Danny Granger to make shots late-and-close (and a spot where Deng would've been big, literally) but David West has arrived as someone willing to take those late possessions as well. Granted, those aren't ideal closers, but they're willing, and technically in terms of quantity have more than the Bulls do in that department.

Though Ronnie Brewer is unfortunately a bit too small to completely check Danny Granger, or couldn't be the one to replace Boozer on defense instead of Scal, he had a fantastic night filling in for the rest of what Luol Deng usually does. Highlighted by a 2nd quarter one-man run where he lived off transition and on the baseline, Brewer finished the first half with 16 points and 3 steals. On the other side of the ledger was CJ Watson, who was due for a regression to the mean but it didn't have to be all in one night: 0-6 in only 10 minutes of action, culminating in his usual move of making sure to get another shot up when he sees Derrick Rose check in. The UC was so soured by Watson's play the 'M-V-P' chants started before Rose even took the floor, but unfortunately that script was merely that, not reality.

There were some other solid performances as well: Joakim Noah did wonders to give the Bulls extra possessions in the 2nd half. Rip Hamilton continues to add a new dimension to the Bulls offense, though I think that we saw a fairly good defense in Indiana's start to sniff out the Hamilton catch-pass that others never could figure out. Hamilton only shot 6-20 tonight but continues to be a threat, which is the difference from that spot on the floor this season for the Bulls.

Carlos Boozer had a brief spasm of great play in the middle of the 4th quarter, but otherwise looked to have fed the perception that he can only do real damage against bad frontcourts. The Pacers certainly don't have that, though West wasn't great himself, Tyler Hansbrough still is a flailing mess, and Hibbert needs total isolation and the entire shot clock to get his go-to move off...outside of some key boards from Noah the Pacers bigs did a better job against the Bulls frontcourt than anyone this year. Now, it'd be different if the Bulls had two key members of their frontcourt healthy, but credit to them for taking this victory even though I hate their team maybe even moreso than Miami. At least I respect that the Heat are contemporaries (and, sigh, deserved favorites) in their matchup with the Bulls, whereas it's annoying when this Pacers team plays good enough to hang around. This game doesn't mark any kind of major change in the conference hierarchy, but it does show that the Pacers are indeed still...around.