6:00 PM EDT, April 23, 2011
In the end, it’s a loss. Close, exciting, a gritty showing by a Bulls team with a hobbled Derrick Rose, yeah.
But still a loss.
A loss that goes back to the first half, the worst half the Bulls have played in this series.
You’d think the Bulls fell apart when Rose went to the locker room, seemingly taking hope with him. After all, who survives the loss of the presumptive MVP?
The Bulls stayed close until Rose returned, and then got worse with Rose on the floor as the Pacers scored 17 of the last 20 points to roar to a 49-33 halftime lead.
The Pacers closed the second quarter by hitting 7 of 9 shots. Against the best defensive team in the league, mind you.
But it wasn’t just bad defense. It was bad shooting, as well. The Bulls missed two of every three shots in the first half, led by Rose missing 6 of 10 shots and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah each missing 5 of 8.
But wait. It gets worse. The Bulls committed 11 turnovers and gave up 18 points as a result.
The punishment the Pacers delivered in the first three games produced its desired result: The Bulls became a jump-shooting team. Other than Noah, who led the team with 21 points, and Luol Deng, who finished with 16, the Bulls were reluctant to drive.
That was especially true after Rose turned his ankle. The Bulls’ superstar lost a lot of his quickness, speed and lift. There’s no way Darren Collison catches and swats him the way he did on a break in the fourth quarter if Rose is healthy. But he wasn’t. See his 3-for-16 shooting after hurting his ankle for details.
The Pacers unraveled down the stretch with a couple shot-clock violations, but the Bulls couldn’t find enough offense. They airballed threes, and when they did save the play, they proceeded to turn it over. Or missed again.
And when it came time to hit the shot to send it to overtime, the ball ended up in Boozer’s hands. Ballgame.
This is what a team that has never won a closeout game many times does in a closeout game, especially with a left ankle tied behind its back.
But one thing we know about these Bulls: They learn from their mistakes.
On Tuesday, they can start with their start.