It was another ugly one, folks.
The Pacers came out missing everything and dug themselves a 19-point deficit by the end of the first quarter. Improved accuracy, better defense and an impressive-as-hell Josh McRoberts cameo in the second cut the lead to 4 at the half, and Indy even managed to thief the lead momentarily in the third quarter. But that house of cards was quickly blown down by the sonic boom left in the wake of Derrick Rose — and, oddly, Brad Miller — as they continually got by defenders and scored easily in the final 12 minutes.
More than anything, this game felt like a lot of the undercard wrestling matches I watched as a kid. On Saturday afternoon (or whenever these shows used to be on before the whole Monday Night Raw thing took off in primetime), there would only ever be one or two matches that were actually interesting (much like how last night in the NBA only Cavs/Hawks and perhaps Rockets/Hornets were marquee match ups).
But they still had an hour to fill. So, early in the show, someone like Jake the Snake would square off with an also-ran like The Brooklyn Brawler just to kill 10 minutes in between Cocoa Pebbles and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure commercials.
Jake the Snake would come out to much fanfare and quickly start pounding away on the Brawler. A few punches to the face, a clothesline, a body slam and maybe even a supplex or two. Then, out of nowhere, the Brawler would catch Jake with a nutshot that turned the tide. He would pick Jake up, give em an eye gouge and throw in off the ropes before slamming him to the canvas. He would work Roberts over in the corner for a while, pummeling away on his skull until it looked like we might actually have a legitimate fight on our hands.
But, of course, that was all a ruse. The Brawler was never going to win that fight.
Jake got up, landed a few punches, swept the leg and then waited for the Brooklyn Brawler to get up before unleashing the match-ending DDT to put the lights out.
Jake the Snake wins. Play the music.
The Pacers did an admirable job of keeping the game close last night during the middle portions, but the beginning and the end all belonged to the Bulls. And I don’t think anyone in the building really thought the Pacers were ever going to seize enough control of the game to take it over and win — even during the brief stretch in the third quarter when they took a 70-68 lead.
In fact, that was the exact moment the wheels fell off as quickly as it inevitably did for the Brooklyn Brawler.
John Salmons, a guy who had recently shot his way out of the Bulls starting lineup by going 26/81 (32.1%) in his last 8 games, hit a three. Dahntay Jones answered with a bucket of his own but the Bulls came back with a flurry of jumpers and free throws that fueled the 16-2 run over the final 6 minutes of the third quarter that ended Indy’s slim chance at a comeback win.
While the defensive lapses that allowed threes/long jumpers to Salmons, Brad Miller and Luol Deng were disheartening, it was the Pacers inability to put up any points up on the other end that all but determined the final outcome before the third quarter even ended. How an offense can so often go so long looking so inept, I’ll never understand, but, sure enough, the Pacers once again managed to go 6 minutes and 51 seconds without making a single field goal. (Two Earl Watson free throws were the only points Indy put up during the 16-2 run.)
The stretch just featured too many wasted possessions for me to recount. Too much standing around. Too many useless dribbles (I’m looking at you on that one Luther Head). Too many non-advantage creating swing passes (I’m looking at you, Coach).
Ultimately, too many bad shots.
And after that futility, all it took was a DDT from Derrick Rose in the form of his 11 fourth-quarter points (on an easy as Sunday morning 5/5 shooting) to complete the predetermined outcome that we all knew was coming even in the first quarter.
My advice to Pacers fans: Eat your vitamins and say your prayers, brother.
Five Bright Spots
(1) Josh McRoberts had a stellar second quarter and a good game overall. His alley-oop/three-pointer/alley-oop sequence was perhaps the highlight of the season. I really wish I was kidding, but I’m not even sure that I am. (OK, the Boston game was the highlight, I suppose, but this was certainly top five.)
(2) DUNKS. There were a bunch of them. Like, to the point Indy looked like a normal NBA team in terms of athleticism and getting easy buckets even. Unfortunately, dunks in the this league are often seen by fans more as signs of flashy, highlight reel decadence than what they really are: Easy shots to make. I’m not saying you can’t win if you can’t dunk (just ask Gregg Popovich how that is done), but those extra 5-6 dunks most teams other than the Pacers seem to get each night equal 10-12 points. That’s a big deal, particularly since guys like TJ Ford and Jeff Foster seem to miss so many layups — layups that many of the other players in the league would be dunking. As far as the Bulls game specifically, the two aforementioned McRoberts oops were the marquee ones, but Roy had a few and so did Solomon Jones. Speaking of…
(3) Solomon Jones. He looked good in his first-ever Pacer start. Only 3 rebounds in 23 minutes is Hibbertesque bad, but 6/9 shooting for 13 points is more than expected. Particularly since he didn’t seem to blow as many defensive assignments as usual, and he actually looked comfortable catching and shooting without hesitation (something that still eludes Tyler and Brandon Rush). Hopefully this endorsement from Coach O’Brien will give him a little confidence and keep him more engaged out there going forward.
(4) Pump fakes. I’m not sure whether it was just the fact that, as Tim Donahue tweeted during the game, “the Bulls are long on stupid,” but they sure did fall for a ton of shot fakes. Dunleavy had a few effective ones, Murph — per usual — did as well and Luther Head had one that just embarrassed the defender. Even Hibbert had some nice little up-and-under thing that I don’t really support him doing since he’s, ya know, 7 foot 2, but was nonetheless productive. I suppose most of this can just be attributed to Chicago employed Tyrus Thomas, but it might have been the best skill I’ve seen the Pacers master so far this season over a 48-minute stretch.
(5) There is no five. Sorry for lying, but I like round numbers. OK … here’s something: We got to see former Pacer fan favorite Brad Miller go by someone off the dribble on multiple occasions for the first time since, let’s say, 2006. Thanks for instigating some nostalgia, Roy Hibbert. And while I’ve got you here, please stop having nights where you miss 60% of your shots, please and thank you. You’re 7’2″, dude.
He even dresses like Josh McRoberts.