How does Bulls/Pacers break down?


Apr 15

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It seems the Pacers’ Danny Granger may have provided more than so-called bulletin board material with his comments about how if you stop Derrick Rose, you stop the Bulls. It looks like Granger may have given away the Pacers’ game plan.

Foul Derrick Rose. Then foul him harder. Then maybe with some vile intent. Dirty? Flagrant?

The Pacers have some big guys in Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts, and some fouls to give. And what do they have to lose, after all? This is a 35-win team probably not expected to win a game against the surprise team of the NBA with the best overall record in the NBA.

The new Bad Boys?

Rose is well aware of this and even after Wednesday’s final regular season game of the season said, “I can play through anything, especially in the playoffs.”

He’ll have to.

The Bulls have won nine straight and 21 of 23 coming in on the way to the league best 62-20 record, a remarkable and unanticipated achievement.

So you figure it’s the Pacers who’ll have more to worry about from the Bulls, especially scoring off the defense that has suffocated the Pacers’ offense in most of the four matchups this season.

The Pacers shot 38 percent against the Bulls this season and averaged 90.8 points compared to 102.3 for the Bulls on 45 percent shooting. The Pacers were just 31 percent on threes.

Plus, Luol Deng did a good job offsetting the Pacers best offensive weapon, Danny Granger. Granger averaged 20 points and six rebounds against the Bulls, about his season average. But Deng virtually matched that at 18 points and 6.5 rebounds. The Pacers will need more than that from Granger. He’s a strong right hand player and the Bulls have done well playing him to that shot as well as when he steps back left and fades away.

Matchups always are crucial in the playoffs, and they aren’t going to be that easy against the Pacers. I’m not sure what the Pacers will do, but I don’t see how they can play Darren Collison against Rose.

Collison is quick and, especially, when he’s off the ball you can’t turn your back on him and ball watch or he’ll sneak behind for a back door. But he’s a lightweight, more in size than NBA stature. He’s maybe six feet and maybe 155 pounds. I still think I can beat him arm wrestling, but I can bench press 75 pounds.

When he bodies up against Rose, it feels to Rose like he’s hit by a fly and signals for an exterminator. If I were the Pacers, I’d probably try someone bigger and longer on Rose, like Paul George. He doesn’t have the quickness to stay with Rose, but no one does. They use A.J. Price as backup point, but he’s no better answer and doesn’t run the team well. Maybe some of Dahntay Jones. Rose will be meeting a lot of Pacers.

Perhaps George bothers Rose with his length and closes some of the  passing lanes. You can put Collison on Keith Bogans or then Ronnie Brewer as neither is going to try to beat you off the dribble or post, and if they do you’ve taken the Bulls out of what they want to do, anyway.

I actually think where the Pacers can be the most trouble is along the front line.

The Bulls generally try to hide Carlos Boozer on the lesser scorer, generally a non scoring center.

Not that Hibbert is a major offensive threat. But at 7-2, he is too tall for Boozer. So Joakim Noah will have to play Hibbert with Boozer on Hansbrough. Hansbrough can be a problem because he has become adept at that 16 to 18 foot elbow jumper, so Boozer will have to come out, which he doesn’t like to do. Lately, the Bulls have had Noah chasing the so called stretch fours, which has accounted, in part, for his reduced rebounding numbers. Noah has averaged just 5.8 rebounds in six April games.

It does appear Noah’s never quite made the recovery from his thumb surgery as he tends to lose or bobble balls now more often. Plus, he’s been bothered with ongoing ankle injuries the last few weeks and banged his knee in the season finale.

He says he’s fine! And stop asking!

You figure the Pacers will try to wear down Rose as much as possible by running him through screens and hitting him hard as he does. Neither Noah or Boozer tend to be very physical screeners, so the Bulls may go more to Kurt Thomas to give back some of what they get, in a way. As well as for the physical play against Rose.

If you are getting some hits as well it can distract you from aggression.

Thomas in some respects is a better matchup against Hibbert, and the Bulls could go to Noah to chase out on Hansbrough or McRoberts if Boozer is having issues.

Granger, obviously, is vital given he is the Pacers’ version of their All Star, if not quite at that level now. His issue always has been a propensity to settle for the three point shot and not drive to the basket despite his quickness.

In his career, he’s averaged just about the same number of threes as he has free throws, a discouraging ratio for his team. But interim coach Frank Vogel has done a good job getting Granger off the three point line some as Granger is attacking more from the wing and since the All Star break is averaging about 6.6 free throws compared to about 4.6 threes, a much better ratio for him and indication he will go to the basket more. And then it comes down to the Pacers X-factors and whether Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy will hit shots, especially on the road against perhaps the league’s best home team.

Here’s a look at the individual matchups:

Point Guard: Derrick Rose vs Darren Collison.

Rose averaged 27 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds in the 3-1 series over the Pacers with his career high 42 points in the March loss. Even though it was a loss, it was a remarkable effort as Rose did one of those refuse to lose things with 19 fourth quarter points and a game saving block to end regulation. He’s much too strong for the quick Collison, though Rose will see multiple and physical defense, and the Pacers have been one of the teams to throw half court and back court traps at him.

The Bulls haven’t seen that defense much as the irony is bad defensive teams prefer it because they don’t have much system. Golden State probably did it best in beating the Bulls in February and limiting Rose. Someone else has to step up offensively, and the question is whether anyone can with the Bulls. Can Kyle Korver get 20? Can Boozer get 30? In addition to playing physically, the Pacers likely will throw aggressive traps at the Bulls, and even if the Bulls beat them a few times four on three, they might just stay with it and push that “can someone else beat us” line. They’ll probably also throw more zone at the Bulls as the Bulls generally take time to adjust to it and changing up going in and out of zones has hurt at times.

Edge: Bulls

Shooting Guard: Keith Bogans vs Paul George.

Bogans is the guy everyone wanted replaced, at least fans, and he started every game for the league’s top team. He’s a specialist who’ll work hard and Hall of Fame coach Jack Ramsey even said on ESPN he thought Bogans was the league’s best defender. I’m not sure about that, but Jack does know the game. George is a promising rookie with a smooth, seemingly effortless game. I wonder if they’d take a shot with him on Rose as Collison is too small and weak. George won’t score a lot, but has great skill and did score 23 against Washington in April with five threes.

Edge: Pacers.

Small Forward: Luol Deng vs Danny Granger.

Granger is the big shooter for the Pacers, their leading scorer and a former All Star. He does shoot about 39 percent on threes and will take a lot, though they have him driving a bit more. Deng has been coach Tom Thibodeau’s “glue” all season, defending the best perimeter player and displaying a tough all around game. Against the Pacers this season, he was second on the team in blocks, steals and assists and second to Rose in three point attempts. His versatility has been invaluable.

Edge: Bulls

Power Forward: Carlos Boozer vs Tyler Hansbrough.

Boozer was that 20/10 guy against the Pacers, averaging 20 points and 11.3 rebounds and missing the game the Bulls lost. Hansbrough played more after the coaching change and didn’t face Boozer as much. Hansbrough has become adept at the elbow jumper and is a relentless, hard working player. Boozer will try to rough him up and see how that works as he won’t want to chase him around. Against the Bulls, Hansbrough was the Pacers leading scorer at 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, though just playing in two of the four games.

Edge: Bulls

Center: Joakim Noah vs Roy Hibbert.

This is an X-factor for the Bulls in which Noah we’ll see. Will it be the hustling, playoff one who drove the Celtics and Cavs crazy the last two playoffs? Or the struggling guy who suddenly is measured for whether he can even get a double/double. Noah’s had an injury plagued season and the question also is his stamina, which doesn’t seem back yet. Hibbert had a tough season against the Bulls, averaging 6.3 points and 5.5 rebounds. But he has been used more under interim Frank Vogel and averaged 12.9 points and 6.6 rebounds the last 10 games.

Edge: Bulls

Bench: Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas and Kyle Korver, et al, vs Josh McRoberts, Dahntay Jones, Jeff Foster and Mike Dunleavy

The Bulls would seem to have a huge advantage here with Kurt Thomas likely to fill in for Noah or Boozer to help combat the Pacers’ expected physical play. Also, Ronnie Brewer comes for Bogans, and though Brewer hurt his thumb, he’s more an energy player and disruptor. The Bulls will finish with Kyle Korver, though he hasn’t shot well against Indiana. The Pacers have stopped using T.J. Ford and James Posey, and the question is with no back to backs and long breaks in the first round whether Thibodeau will stick with his starters and how much of the bench he will use. Also, will the Pacers’ shooting reserves make threes, their specialty, now with Dunleavy off the bench?

Edge: Bulls

Coaches: Tom Thibodeau vs Frank Vogel.

Thibodeau is expected to be named coach of the year for leading the Bulls to the league’s best record and a 21-game improvement as a rookie head coach. He’s turned the Bulls into the best defensive team and has had them generally acknowledged as the league’s hardest playing on a most regular basis. Vogel is a rookie and just an interim after Jim O’Brien was fired after a loss to the Bulls in January. The Pacers have been slightly better than .500 since and finished well with 10 wins in the last 17. They are satisfied with little steps for now.

Edge: Bulls

Pick: Bulls in five.

So who’ll win the NBA title? Plenty of time to decide that.

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