Pacers Get Blown Out in Game 5, Go Fishing

The Pacers season comes to a close as fishing season begins. (via TNT’s Inside the NBA)

Game 5 was an unfortunate and anticlimactic end to what was otherwise a fun, competitive series. But it proved what we all knew: one of these teams is for real and the other is the Indiana Pacers.

Danny Granger, as he did throughout the postseason, kept the Indiana attack afloat early, forcing his way to the hoop for 11 of his team’s 25 first-quarter points. (He finished the game with 20 points on 16 shots, 6 boards, 3 assists and 3 turnovers.) Despite the best efforts of their captain, who shot 43-for-90 (47.8%) in his five-game playoff run, the early hole was one the Pacers would never climb out of. The Bulls never trailed in this one after a hot start and it really was never even a game.

As in a few of the other games against Chicago, they could never get their offense going.

Roy Hibbert was again little more than patio furniture, oscillating between ineffectiveness and foul trouble early. To his credit, he did help spark the only thing we can even really consider a run, scoring 6 points coming out of half time as the Pacers cut the Bulls lead to 4 at one point. But he and his teammates couldn’t establish him down low and he turned the ball over twice in 9 third quarter minutes, which together only allowed him to get three looks from the paint in period.

Tyler Hansbrough was aggressive in the paint (8-for-9 from the line), but maybe more than in any game I can recall off hand, his limitations were on full display. Perhaps it was the fact that loud-softy Carlos Boozer spent so little time on the floor or perhaps it was just one of those nights, but regardless, Tyler was unable to create any clean looks. Every way he tried to hurl the ball at the rim was stymied. He was a wind-up car running into a wall. Nothing he tried worked. But he had nothing else to try so he just tried the same thing again. That type of motor is a good thing, but sometimes it looks like he’s having a series of mini-strokes out there rather than making a basketball play. After his surreal Game 1, he finished the series shooting 10-for-41 (24.4%) in the last four. Not so helpful.

Darren Collison continued doing his “not not solid but not not unmemorable” thing and added in one stretch of ugly futility during the third quarter, of which he played all 12 minutes. Didn’t sit — but didn’t really score, didn’t really fuel the offense and definitely didn’t really guard anyone. This felt similar to about 50% of the games we saw out of him this season. Some aging and some offseason work can hopefully lower that rate.

Paul George’s continued woeful inefficiency on offense will likely again be excused by his primary assignment of guarding Derrick Rose. But since he didn’t even do that particularly well on this night, it’s worth highlighting that his 2-for-8 shooting night dropped his five-game total to 10-for-33 (30.3%). Combine that with Tyler’s terrible production in series and we’re looking at two of the Pacers starters making 19 FGs from Game 2 through Game 5. That’s less than 5 makes combined per game from 40% of your starting lineup. That’s asking the other three guys to do a lot — and lest we forget one of those other three guys has the last name Hibbert. (Tyler and Roy combined to cough up 8 of the team’s are-you-serious 20 turnovers.)

Off the bench, Dahntay Jones added a semblance of a spark. So did AJ Price. But Jeff Foster wasn’t himself, Josh McRoberts’ best play was getting himself thrown out of the game for back-hand flailing at Joakim Noah (who Granger called “cowardly”) and Mike Dunleavy spent the last 19 minutes he ever will play in a Pacers jersey doing exactly nothing of interest. Brandon Rush made a few shots but was otherwise himself.

So … OK … The Indiana Pacers couldn’t execute or score. This isn’t altogether shocking. They’ve failed to be able to score against much worse defenses than Chicago’s all year long.

The real issue was the other end.

They have played poorly on offense in a few of these games and still been right there. The difference was that their defense fell apart in comparison to the other nights. In fairness, let’s first remember that Keith Bogans hit 5 of the 7 threes he took. Can’t blame anyone for that. If you asked most opposing coaches before the game whether or not they would want Keith I-Presume-His-Middle-Name-Is-Front-Iron Bogans to take 7 threes — even in an open gym — they would just smile and nod uncontrollably, unable to even speak due to gleeful euphoria like that of a puppy hearing a can opener. Additionally, the Pacers turned Boozer into a complete no-show — almost literally considering his 1-for-5 shooting in 16 minutes. (He was in foul trouble all night.)

His teammates were clearly excited about his play and happy to celebrate. (via @JohnCTownsend)

The only other caveat we need to put on the Pacers weak defensive showing is that the turnovers didn’t help. They gave up 34 points on possessions where they gave the ball away. That’s a ton and some of that helped the Bulls score 17 points off of transition and finish the game with a blistering 123.4 points-per-100-possession scoring rate. Oddly, the Pacers did manage to keep them off the offensive glass again, however, only surrendering 8 all night.

Other than that, Chicago did whatever it wanted.

In Frank Vogel speak, there was plenty of mouth out there but no smash.

Joakim Noah, in particular, was just on another plane from an energy and aggressiveness perspective. Likely high on adrenaline and emotion from having his grandfather in the stands watching him play professional basketball for the first time ever, he was a ball of napalm. He was acting like a fool, sure, but dead-ball situations aside, he was just more active than the whole Pacers front line — something that was more immeasurably helpful than anything else but still translated to 9 FTAs and 4 blocks on the stat sheet. (By contrast, he averaged 3.9 FTAs and 1.5 blocks per game on year.) Joakim is one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and everyone in the building, including the coolest man in attendance, became well aware as to why if they didn’t know already.

Derrick Rose was brilliant. So much for having a gimpy ankle. He hit 8 of his 17 shots, getting into the lane for 4 buckets in the paint to go along with 4 long jumpers (including 3 threes). He was all over the court on the defensive end as well, forcing a few steals and, most memorably, making the 7’2″ Hibbert look like he was 2’7″ when Rose blocked Roy’s shot at the rim. Splendid “how DARE you question me?” bounce-back game for him after two stinkers.

Luol Deng continued to play like perhaps the most overlooked player in the league. 24 points (on 14 shots and 8 trips to the line), 6 boards, 7 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. And don’t forget the high-level defense and even-keeled, play-within-the-offense decision-making. For all the things in the series you could point to that have made the Bulls look vulnerable as a contender, Deng’s play serves as a huge counter-argument. He was — tonight and throughout the playoffs — superb.

You may have noticed that, in recapping this loss, I’ve focused more on the individual contributions than the team nuances. Really, this is what the game and this series was about. One team had 4 of the 5 best players in the series and the other had Danny Granger, some interesting role players who poured their hearts into virtually every play and an “Aww Shucks … Why Not Us?” plucky young coach who got a band of underachievers to believe that they could hang.

It would be disingenuous to call this one a “gentleman’s sweep” considering that every game aside from the final one was in the balance in the final minute. But the simple fact is that one team had the players that could make plays and the other did not. The way we got to a 4-1 Bulls series win was unexpected, but the result was not.

Fun series though. And it should be a fun offseason.

Let’s not let one discouraging game change the whole narrative of the last week and a half.

Tags: Carlos Boozer Chicago Bulls Danny Granger Darren Collison Derrick Rose Game Recap Joakim Noah Luol Deng Pacers Vs. Bulls 2011 Playoffs Pacers Vs. Bulls 2011 Playoffs: Game 5 Paul George Roy Hibbert Tyler Hansbrough

  • Dom

    As a Knicks fan, I thoroughly enjoyed watching all five of your playoff games. From an outsider’s perspective, I’m highly doubtful that a Hibbert-Granger-Collison nucleus can produce anything more than first-round playoff exits, but I am curious to know (a) if that’s entirely ok with Pacers fans, as long as your team is fun, young, and exciting to watch, and (b) if you really think this team can contend, and (c) if so, how?

    Also, this blog’s latest article does a good job talking about the Pacers’ late-season buzz, and how buzz plays a role in the NBA.

  • Chris D.

    Good assessment. Still, it amazes me that Atlanta can get blasted the way they did and, as badly as the Pacers played, they didn’t lose by 50 to a team with DRose on the floor. That shows that either Bulls played down to the Pacers or they are not really a top 3 team in the East. This matchup looked like a solid 4 vs. a weak 5 to me, not like a 1 vs. 8. The next round will tell us what the Bulls really are made of.

    As to Dom’s question, I don’t think we will be happy with first round exits the way Colts fans are (elbow, elbow). That trio will not take us to the promised land, but at least two of those three will have to be part of the future core. What we need is either a cold-blooded shooting guard or versatile small forward. It’s okay to have heart. The Pacers starters, plus McRob and George have heart. But, at the end of the day you have to be able to convert heart into points the way DRose can. The Pacers should spend their improved stock value on such a player. I think Granger will be packaged off in a trade. He’s served us well and deserves a chance to play in an established offense that can produce the disciplined motion and passes he needs to score. If we keep him, he will not happy being demoted to the #2 option. Either Collison or Hibbert can be #2 easily, depending on how a given game unfolds.

  • Richard

    Chris, that’s a terrible argument for saying just because the Bulls didn’t blow out the Pacers by 50, they aren’t the best. What are you calling the Lakers, Heat, or Spurs who also never blew out by 50?

    The Hawks are that bad, not that the Bulls aren’t that good. Don’t try to connect the two.

  • Micah.naptownmenace

    Great job as usual Jared. Game 5 was everything we Pacers fans feared would happen. It was as if the Bulls figured out the Pacers weaknesses at the end of game 5 and extrapolated that into an entire game plan for Game 5. The Bulls really picked up the tempo and the Pacers it seemed, to me anyway, that they had no sense of urgency. They didn’t get back on defense in transition and they didn’t push the ball up the court after made field goals by the Bulls.

    Oh well… I’m happy the Pacers are back to playing games that really matter and getting their props for playing hard under the bright lights of the playoffs.

    I don’t think trading Granger is the answer unless you can package him and get a top-notch scorer like Monta Ellis in return. The Pacers will have about $25 million in capspace and there will be a couple of Free Agents that could really help the Pacers and Granger out. Leandro Barbossa (if he opts out of his deal), Jason Richardson, and or Jamal Crawford would provide the Pacers with the scoring and spacing they need. Barbossa and Crawford can create off the dribble better than anyone currently on the Pacers roster and and have shown to be clutch guys during the playoffs. Signing a guy like Jason Kapono to be our Korver would be nice too.

  • mileszs

    It was a great run, and I loved attending a playoff game, even if the fans from the opposing team were the least cordial group of fans I’ve ever encountered (been to a Yankees game, but never to an LA Dodgers game, whose fans currently hold the Hateful Overbearing Might-Physically-Harm-You crown). It’s too bad the Pacers spent last night doing everything we thought they had put behind them; bad team defense (how is it that two guys jump at the same shot fake?), atrocious offense (I’ve seen better organized pickup games), and unforced turnovers (if I were Frank Vogel, I’d throw my clipboard at AJ Price ever time he dribbles it off his foot — “You’re a POINT GUARD!”). The Bulls deserved to win the game, but the Pacers could’ve at least put up a fight.

    Regardless, I remain excited for 2011-12. I hope the lockout is short, free agency is fruitful, and Boozer spends the whole of it quietly crying himself to sleep, hoping when he wakes up, someone will give him a five.

  • Sean

    Bulls fan here. Great series and hope this can continue a rivalry between the two teams moving forward. The Pacers outplayed the Bulls for most of the series and probably should have either been tied going into Game 5 or even had the lead.

    Mitch, I’d be real careful with the cap space. The Pacers don’t want to fall into the same trap the Bucks did. They made a big jump last year and played well in the playoffs. They then proceeded to overpay a bunch of marginal free agents. If a piece is there, they should nab it, but I think being patient is good as well. Keep adding pieces through the draft and when trades are available. Overpaying Jamal Crawford isn’t turning the team into a contender.

    I’d look back to Memphis and OJ Mayo. If they are still willing to do McRoberts for Mayo, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Mayo has struggled early in his career, but he still has lottery level skills that you just don’t find too often. If he turns into a late bloomer like Aldridge in Portland, you could have a great pickup.

    The other option I’d look at is Josh Smith. There is no chance Atlanta can keep his salary around, and the Pacers not only have cap space to trade, but the pieces to acquire him. Atlanta will likely look for young, cheap players in return. I think something like Hansbrough, a 1st round pick, and James Posey’s expiring deal would be worth a look (probably have to mix and match a bit more to make it work). Smith has troubles, but if you can get him in line, he’s an incredible talent. Has a nice offensive game when he’s not taking stupid 3′s and can be a great defender. He’s extremely underated and perhaps their most valuable player. Add a shooter and get some improvement from some of the others and that team can compete with most in the East.

  • Hardwood Hype

    Great assessment of the roster at both ends. The Pacers have nothing to ashamed of after this series. With the exception of Game 5 they made the Bulls work for everything. They were right there in Game 1,2 and 3. There is a lot of young talent on that roster and plenty of cause for optimism.

    By the way, I could watch a loop of that failed Carlos Boozer high-five for hours. Hell, I just sat here and stared at it for a good five minutes now.

  • urx7bad

    I would to see this group again for next year season. They met their expectation for this year and that was to make it to the playoffs. They are young inexperieced playoffs team and will be hungrier next year.

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