Post-Game Grades: Pacers Earn Most Impressive Victory of the Season

Nov 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) goes for the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola (4) looks on during the second half at the United Center. The Indiana Pacers defeated the Chicago Bulls 99-90. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 15, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) goes for the ball as Indiana Pacers forward Luis Scola (4) looks on during the second half at the United Center. The Indiana Pacers defeated the Chicago Bulls 99-90. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

The Good:  The Pacers’ quick ball movement.  Coming into the night, Indiana was ranked 29th overall in assists per game, right ahead of Sacramento.  Now, on the surface, they didn’t do a much better job on Saturday.  Only recording 18 assists on their 37 made field goals (48.6 percent).  By NBA standards, you really need to aim for that mark to be well over 50 percent.

Regardless, the Pacers did everything at an acceptable level on offense in the win.  Down the stretch, they were able to swing the ball along the perimeter and get the looks they needed.  A.J. Price was a mastermind in the second half, and played the point guard position about as good as you can to save a team.

When Price noticed defenders trying to double him off hedges, he hit Damjan Rudez, who was slipping the pick-and-roll.  That kept Indiana up by double digits:

The Bad: Chicago’s rebounding.  What the Bulls allowed the Pacers to do in the United Center was unacceptable by their standards, even without their superstar.  Teams that enter your home arena on the end of a back-to-back, as the Pacers did on Saturday, are supposed to play with lethargy.  They aren’t likely to be as physical and feverish on the boards, and typically those tired squads play with a jumpshot mentality all night.  Instead of playing aggressive inside, you would figure to see them fire away from the outside.

Nonetheless, Indiana managed to out-rebound Chicago 46-34, a 12 rebound advantage for the team on a back-to-back.  Thibodeau’s Bulls had a full day of rest on Friday, after having Rose go down with the hamstring aggravation on Thursday.  Solomon Hill and Luis Scola combined to grab half of the Pacers’ rebounds, pulling down 23 total.  Both of them finished with double-doubles, and four of Hill’s were on the offensive glass.  After having that disastrous game vs. Denver, Hill had to avenge himself for his teammates.

Not one member of the Bulls grabbed double-digit rebounds in the loss, or more than six for that matter.  On the season, Chicago was getting out-rebounded by -1.5 heading into the night, so it was a point of emphasis.  That point failed.

MVP:  Luis Scola.  You could hear Argentina screaming for their 34-year-old all the way in Indiana.

In many ways, it was Scola’s best game of his Pacers’ career.  The last time he scored 21 points while reaching 11 boards was when he was stuck in Phoenix.  What Scola did tonight was indeed a first, scoring 21, grabbing 11 boards and blocking two shots.  On both ends, he was there fighting and clawing.  When you looked up at Scola, he was either hustling in the paint against Gasol and Noah, diving for loose balls, or playing tremendous pick-and-pop from the top of the key.

LVP:  Taj Gibson, the alleged sixth man.

When Gasol decided to spurn the Lakers and sign with Chicago, Gibson had a mixed heart of feelings.  He was as eager as anyone to start next to Noah and get the large minutes, but he also wanted to develop the best team in the East.  They probably have that now, but Gibson is still in the limited bench role.  He’s averaging nearly the same amount of minutes as last year, and the same amount of shot attempts on the season.

However, on Saturday, Gibson played 25 minutes in the home loss and made just 1-of-6 field goals, scoring a measly two points.  He was a -6 in plus-minus on the night, which was not nearly as harmful as Noah’s -12.  You can’t have two of your core frontcourt pieces failing to convert or be active on the offensive end.  Gasol was the only Chicago big to be over a +3 on the night.

X-Factor:  Mr. 10-day contract.  You know him by the name of A.J. Price, a man that was incredibly out of your price range on Saturday.

When Price said he was playing for his life after the Pacers’ win over the Jazz last week, nobody really took him seriously.  Six games into his 2014-15 season, and Price has two games of scoring over 20 points.  Off the bench for starter Donald Sloan, Price was able to come in and knock down two crucial 3-pointers in his 24 minutes.  On 7-of-11 shooting, Price had his second-best night from an efficiency standpoint, with exception to that win over the Jazz.

Perhaps the most underrated part of the game was the Pacers’ ability to drive and get to the line.  With this team — who takes a ton more outside shots than last year — it’s almost habitual to get trigger happy from deep.  But, Price got to the line seven times, more than he has in any game this year.  When Frank Vogel needs some spark and someone to take control, there is no better x-factor on the roster, currently.

Indiana Pacers99FinalRecap | Box Score90Chicago Bulls
Luis Scola, PF 30 MIN | 10-12 FG | 1-4 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +2Can anyone remember the last time he took 12 field goals in a game and fans didn’t hate him after?
Chris Copeland, SF 39 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | 13 PTS | +6Still believes in the driving scoop layup, but everyone likes him better from 24 feet extended.
Solomon Hill, SF 33 MIN | 6-14 FG | 8-9 FT | 12 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | -4The next coming of a perennial two-way player, with one of the best attitudes in the organization. Larry Bird better hold on to this one, and pat him on the head.
Roy Hibbert, C 35 MIN | 4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 8 PTS | -5Wasn’t Kareem tonight, as he appeared to be last week, but still blocked three shots and held down the paint against a top frontcourt.
Donald Sloan, PG 25 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +6The fire has cooled down.
Lavoy Allen, PF 18 MIN | 1-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +7Many were petitioning for Allen to start after his big performances. Scola still has the nod.
Damjan Rudez, SF 24 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +15Only three points were from a significant corner triple
Ian Mahinmi, C 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +14A whole lot of nothing huge.
A.J. Price, PG 24 MIN | 7-11 FG | 5-7 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +4Looks 95 years old, but plays like a high school player in his state championship.
Frank Vogel
After the Nuggets loss, he said the team needed to play angry. They only stunned the East’s best team the next night.