The Indiana Pacers overcame Derrick Rose’s 24 points and held on tight down the stretch against the reigning MVP to give the Chicago Bulls their first home loss 95-90 Wednesday night. Rose led all scorers but the Pacers forced Rose to pass on a critical possession late and Roy Hibbert converted a dunk for the last of his 20 points as the Pacers had won to avoid back to back losses for the first time all season.
In the last critical sequence of the game, David West missed a righty hook over Joakim Noah and the Bulls raced down the court down two with 37 seconds to go. Rose blitzed down the court but Darren Collison had gotten back and the Bulls set up the offense to try and tie the game.
Almost as immediately as the Bulls got set, Rose tore down the lane and went up. Anyone who has watched Rose for his short career would be certain he would take the shot, but Roy Hibbert and his considerable frame posed a difficult obstacle to score over and Rose found Brian Scalabrine in the corner wide open for a go-ahead three attempt.
But the lightly used forward’s shot was short and though Noah hustled for the rebound by diving towards the sideline, his attempt to save the ball was tossed down the court towards the Pacers end and the visitors had a gift transition run-out and a two on one with 20 seconds to play and the lead.
Collison wisely began to pull the ball out to spend some clock while Chicago would assumedly foul Indiana, but he tripped and the ball squirted free. Fortunately for Indiana, it rolled right to Danny Granger (team-high 22 points) who zipped a pass to Hibbert for the dunk that put them up four points with 13 seconds left.
The Bulls went for the quick two after a timeout, but Noah’s pass to Carlos Boozer was stolen by the Pacers, and the victory sealed.
The hectic sequence concluded a game that saw the Pacers start off strong in the first quarter by typically strong first quarter play by Hibbert and the home team Bulls rally to take a double-digit lead into halftime behind 14 second quarter points from Ronnie Brewer filling in for Luol Deng, who was missing the game due to a recent wrist injury.
The Pacers then answered after halftime by snapping off a couple of modest runs and strong play by Granger and Hibbert, overtaking the Bulls by the time the third quarter was complete. The fourth quarter added West’s contributions (seven fourth quarter points) to Granger and Hibbert, setting up the furious finish.
At Blog-A-Bull, your friendly BullsBlogger tries to get inside the head of Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to understand the personnel in that late game sequence:
Scal came in on a strange defensive substitution the possession prior, with Carlos Boozer playing with 5 fouls and him being all Boozer-y on defense and whatnot. Though it was a situation where having either Taj Gibson or Luol Deng healthy would've changed everything, inserting Omer Asik could've been workable with him taking Roy Hibbert and Noah switching to David West. Maybe Thibs reasoned that Scal was less likely to be called for a questionable foul, something that the Bulls bigs encountered for much of the second half. I can't as easily guess his reasoning soon afterwards to not have Kyle Korverin for the last-ditch effort down 4 points, outside of him, er, hitting only 6 of his last 24 three-point attempts. It likely wouldn't have mattered, but it was obvious how much the Pacers overplayed Rose and dared Noah (or anyone else) to do anything about it.
Tom Lewis at Indy Cornrows points out a difference in closing tough games this season than in seasons past:
But one thing was different. Newcomer David West wasn't around for the frustrating collapses in the playoffs last season, and he had no intention of letting his team fall into the same trap. West could be seen on the bench clapping his hands, pumping everyone up.
"Come on, we're alright, we're alright," West said.
The Pacers would end up being more than alright, after struggling to get field goal against the stingy Bulls for another two minutes after that timeout. The Pacers were still up two with the ball. West couldn't get his sweet-spot, 17-footer to go all night, so he took the ball strong in the lane to make a nice jump hook.