The Pacers are in the playoffs for the first time in five years, but — more importantly — this will be the first time for 8p9s covering Indiana in the postseason. We’re going to jump in with both feet. Read all about it in our multi-part Pacers vs Bulls Playoff Preview series in the hours and days to come.
OK. The time for analyzing is over. We have broken down this series in virtually every way we could think of. Tim gave you every relevant number possible and I even typed a few words. It was probably more than needed to be discussed and it was more work than we expected but, as you can read below, we were confident we would only have to do it once so …
With no further ado, here are predictions from all of us 8 Points, 9 Seconds writers on how the series will go.
Tim Donahue Says …
After spending the better part of the last week digging into the these two teams in detail, I can’t say that I can find cause for optimism. Where the Pacers are weak, the Bulls are strong. Where the Pacers are strong, the Bulls are stronger. Add in the experience gap — the Bulls starters have 3,808 playoff minutes, the Pacers only 162 — and you have probably have the biggest mismatch in this year’s playoffs. I don’t see the Pacers being able to win any game where Chicago plays even reasonably well.
I expect the the Bulls defense to slow the pace down, get up under Hansbrough’s chin, and generally force Collison and Granger into a lot of dribbling and a lot of forced shots. At the other end, the Pacers won’t be able to keep Rose out of the lane, and that will get Hibbert and the other bigs into foul trouble. I thought about calling this a “five-game sweep,” but that would be based solely on the thought that Chicago would let up in either Game 3 or Game 4. But these Bulls don’t look like they’re going to be taking their foot off the gas any time soon. And a focused Bulls team won’t give one away.
Prediction: Bulls in 4
Jared Wade Says …
Among all NBA teams, the Pacers finished dead last in attendance this season. The Bulls finished first. There are many reasons for this disparity, but the most glaring is the same one we will see play out on the court during the next four (or maybe five) games: Chicago is really, really, really good at basketball and Indiana is not.
You likely already know about the individual greatness of Derrick Rose, the offensive acumen of Carlos Boozer and the underrated defensive splendor of Joakim Noah and Luol Deng. And you likely already know that the Pacers don’t have a single player who has been steady or healthy enough to consistently produce for the Pacers all year. Indeed, the talent gap is the most important factor in the series. But second on the list is the fact that these are two teams that are at completely different stages of cohesion.
The Bulls have a proven game strategy that is understood and precisely executed by everyone in their rotation. They are a singular unit who, especially on the defensive side of the ball, combine to become greater than the sum of their parts — which are some damn fine parts, remember. Meanwhile, the Pacers look different from night-to-night, and this Jeckyl-and-Hyde persona has led to some games with play good enough to knock off the Lakers and Heat intertwined with contests where they get blown out by the Timberwolves or Kings.
Based on this, it’s altogether possible that the team puts it all together for one 48-minute stretch and forces a Game 5. Watching this team all year, I almost expect that to happen. It’s what makes the roster from top to bottom so maddening to watch, not just for Pacers fans but anyone who appreciates high-level execution on a basketball court. But after perusing all the numbers we have poured through and watching all the video we have found and reading all the previews others have written, I would be shocked to see them do it twice.
Prediction: Bulls in 5
Alex Yovanovich Says …
I believe Chicago has advantages at point guard with Derrick Rose over Darren Collison, power forward with Carlos Boozer over Tyler Hansbrough and center with Joakim Noah over Roy Hibbert. That means Danny Granger has to significantly outplay Luol Deng, which is no small task. It also means that the combination of Paul George, Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy will have to dominate Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer at the shooting guard spot. If that happens, then I believe that Hansbrough has to give Boozer fits on both ends of the court and Hibbert has to score some points against Noah to make things competitive.
This is the most important playoff series for the Bulls in years. Expect the number one seed to come out ready to play every night. Derrick Rose will show why he’s the MVP.
Prediction: Bulls in 5
Ronald Eugene Says …
Many people remember the 1994 playoffs in which the Pacers swept the Orlando Magic, toppled the first-seeded Atlanta Hawks and nearly won the entire Eastern Conference. The New York Knicks ultimately ended that dream stretch in a decisive game 7 at Madison Square Garden that left Reggie Miller and this author (six years old at the time) in tears. Many people, however, do not remember that the momentum for that run was built the year before when Indiana played New York tough in the first round, ultimately losing the series 3-1.
This young Pacers team is similar to the 1993 squad. A potential coaching change looms, and there are a handful of players on the roster that won’t be back next year. However, the foundation exists for a future playoff run. That future starts now, with the Pacers throwing seven kinds of smoke in a first round series against heavily favored Chicago. Indiana won’t win the series. But they can either put up a valiant fight or limp into the looming lockout.
Prediction: Bulls in (a tough) 5
Tom Kester Says …
I expect to see a hungry, clicking, competitive Pacers team. I also expect to see an overwhelmed, flabbergasted Pacers team. (You can’t teach inexperience.) Both of these Pacers squads may even show up in the same game. I see at least one altercation between Tyler and some Bull (pick one), and probably another involving Jeff. Entertainment will be had.
So I figure the Pacers to win 5 or 6 halves of basketball, barring D. Rose’s abduction by space aliens. They’ll play hard, and the Pacers fans will be generally satisfied, but that still puts the Bulls victory dance at the United Center, after Game 5. I’d love to see 7 games, but that may have to wait until next season.
Prediction: Bulls in 5