April 19, 2011

You may have seen this movie before: The Chicago Bulls trailed with 5:20 left, only to rally behind Derrick Rose (who scored 14 fourth-quarter points) to notch a 96-90 Game 2 victory and take a 2-0 series lead over the gutsy Indiana Pacers on Monday. Rose, led the way with 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists, as the 62-win Bulls once again struggled to overcome the 37-win Pacers.

• The Pacers' blog Eight Points, Nine Seconds created an outstanding series preview using detailed play-by-play breakdowns from the stat-tracking service Synergy Sports. It showed that isolation plays by the Bulls' offense were a much better matchup against the Pacers' defense than pick-and-rolls were, and that's how things played out in Game 2. The Pacers very effective in trapping pick-and-rolls initiated by Rose, whereas they once again had much more difficulty stopping him when he simply went one-on-one. On a couple of key possessions late, Danny Granger switched the screen instead of trapping, which essentially left him alone against Rose, who was able to blow right by him.

• Despite Rose's gaudy numbers and strong finish, he was also forced into six turnovers and shot 11-of-25 from the floor. Paul George deserves a ton of credit for quality defensive work against Rose throughout the game. The 6-foot-8 rookie used his length to contain Rose about as well as one could ask, and also had four blocks and three steals in an active performance. Given how good George looked as a rookie shooting guard playing against a possible MVP point guard, he has to be considered potential All-Defensive team material in the future.

• A key turning point in Game 2 occurred with 2:31 left in the second quarter, when Pacers point guard Darren Collison was knocked out of the game with a sprained ankle. Indiana led 45-36 at the time, and Chicago went on a 19-5 run over the next seven minutes spanning the second and the third quarters. Reserve point guard A.J. Price and the Pacers subsequently had all kinds of problems protecting the ball. Indiana had turnovers on seven of its first 13 possessions after Collison's departure, after committing surprisingly few turnovers for the first five-and-a-half quarters of the series. Whereas Collison had just one turnover in 15 minutes, Price coughed the ball up three times in the final 2:03 of the first half alone, and registered five turnovers in 24 minutes. Price finished a minus-17 despite scoring 13 points.

• Although Price did indeed hit some big shots, we were surprised not to see more of Mike Dunleavy as Indiana's facilitator on offense. Dunleavy delivered eight points and four assists with no turnovers for a plus-9 in just 13 minutes. The matchup seemed to be especially in his favor with George covering Rose. Dunleavy would have been able to guard the likes of Keith Bogans or Kyle Korver, and thus not be exposed even while playing point guard on offense.

• How was Chicago able to win despite shooting just 39 percent and committing 21 turnovers? Beyond the recipe of defense plus Rose, the Bulls -- who were the best rebounding team in the league this season -- had an overwhelming edge on the glass for the second straight game: 57-33 overall, including 20-9 on the offensive boards. Carlos Boozer (16) and Joakim Noah (10) led the way.

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