Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted 9:24 p.m. Updated 10:57 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
INDIANAPOLIS All good things must come to an end, as the Bulls (49-19) learned Friday night, following a 115-108 overtime loss to the Pacers (30-39) at Conseco Fieldhouse, ending their eight-game winning streak.
Despite an improbable comeback, led by Derrick Roses MVP-solidifying and career-high-tying 42-point performance, Chicago lost its first contest to Central Division competition this season.
You usually get what you deserve, a melancholy Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau stated cryptically. This is a step backwards.
Rose, who used a career-high 18-for-21 free-throw outing to get the Bulls back into the game in the fourth after the Pacers turned back repeated Chicago comeback attempts, blamed himself for the loss.
WATCH: Rose takes loss hard
All you can do is learn from it, said the downcast All-Star point guard, who capped a 19-point individual fourth quarter with three clutch foul shots after being fouled on a last gasp, long-range attempt with 1.2 seconds left to tie the game at 102-all, sending it into overtime. Next time, I should do something different to change the game.
Thats the time where Im supposed to take over and I didnt show up, Rose continued, referring to the extra session, in which the Pacers reeled off the first seven points and he eventually fouled out. Thats a team that we could possibly see in the playoffs and I cant wait to see them again.
Chicago still the top team in the Eastern Conference after Boston also lost Friday night made its mark this season with an aggressive brand of basketball with a heavy emphasis on rebounding and defense. Both areas were dominated by the Pacers for much of the contest.
They just came out with a lot more energy than us to start the game. They were aggressive, said Luol Deng, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds on the evening. We played hard, we fought back, but we could have definitely played smarter. Weve just got to move on to the next game.
They outrebounded us. they were just more aggressive, more physical than us. in the second half, we started to be more physical. If we would have done that in the first half, we would have been fine. Just a slow start.
A disappointed Thibodeau concurred: We shouldnt have been surprised. Thats who they are, thats what they do.
Youve got to get in the fray. Youve got to make contact, then youve got to fight and we didnt do that until late," said the coach. When you wait around, now all of a sudden, youre in a hole. So youre fighting your way out of a hole and then you dont have enough energy to finish it off in the end. Thats exactly what happened.
Propelled by the post duo of Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert, Indiana jumped out to an early lead and didnt look back scoring 31 points in the opening period by going inside typically an unwise strategy against the Bulls legion of solid post defenders and continued to go back to the well early and often.
Rose provided much of the Bulls offense in the first quarter and while center Joakim Noah ably assisted him, he admitted that his trademark energetic play and tenacious rebounding werent as impactful as usual.
It just shows you that if you dont come with the right mindset to start the game Im talking about for me, personally Ive got to do a better job, said Noah, who missed the Bulls home win Tuesday over Washington with flu-like symptoms and still appears to be under the weather. Ive been playing with low energy.
I just feel like individually, Ive got to step it up, play with a little bit more juice.
Thibodeau opted to pair veteran Kurt Thomas starting in place of Carlos Boozer, who missed his fifth consecutive game with a sprained left ankle with Taj Gibson, who corralled a game-high 16 rebounds, for much of the contest, including the teams fourth-quarter comeback.
It was definitely physical out there. Thats what Im used to. I like to play that kind of game, it was a lot fun, but we came up a little short, Thomas, whose hard screens and veteran savvy Thomas noticed, when the game officials didnt, that Indiana tried to avoid sending woeful free-throw shooter and veteran counterpart Jeff Foster to the line after he was fouled certainly kept Indiana on its toes, recounted to CSNChicago.com.
Gibson told CSNChicago.com: It was just a tough game. Normally, were the aggressor, hit teams in the mouth and set the tone, but tonight, they set the tone early on us. its kind of hard to slow down a hot team.
As the game went on, we were able to get some crucial stops, Derrick made some tough plays. We just couldnt close it out in overtime.
According to Thibodeau, Gibson was the only member of the Bulls usually-reliable second unit to come up with a consistent performance all evening.
Taj had really good energy off the bench, said the first-year NBA head coach, regarded as a favorite for the league Coach of the Year award. He was the only one off the bench that gave us a spark. We were flat.
The contest was extremely physical throughout and while the Bulls made it a more competitive game in the third quarter, foul trouble and inconsistent officiating, on both ends was an issue, as Rose was forced to hit the pine with four fouls.
I dont get that many fouls in games. I could go a whole game without getting a foul, reasoned Rose afterwards. I was just telling them the referees to make sure they look at the tape with some of those fouls. Thats all I said.
Adding to Chicagos woes was a preponderance of long-distance attempts, a recent trend for the normally conservative, inside-oriented offensive squad, but one Thibodeau found disconcerting, as well as a surprising game-long disadvantage on the glass.
They got 23 second-chance points. Thats probably the difference in the game right there. We came out, we settled, they were attacking us, we were back on their heels, he explained. Theyre a physical team, they killed us on the boards to start the game and then we never adjusted. Weve got to get the ball moving. The balls not moving, were settling for quick threes. Wrong shots.
Thats fools gold.
It seemed as if the visitors wouldnt be able break through in the final period of regulation, but Rose - the consensus favorite for league MVP honors - put on a show worthy of the hype hes been afforded, relentlessly willing his way to the basket and either finishing at the rim, getting to the line, or both.
I was just trying to do anything to get my team the win and at the time, it was me putting pressure on their defense, stated the ever-straightforward 22-year-old. Thats with me attacking.
Chimed in Deng: Derrick was great. It was one of those games where they couldnt stop him. He kept going to the hole, he kept getting to the line and he got us back in the game, and made the huge free throws to get it to overtime.
We always play hard as a team, no matter if were down 20, 30, he continued. Derrick is always going to make great plays. He led us to a comeback today.
Roses aforementioned heroics put the game into overtime, but after the Pacers reeled off the first seven points of the extra session and the All-Star point guard subsequently fouled out, it was clear the Bulls had run out of gas.
The only quarter we played defense was the fourth, said Thibodeau, unimpressed with his stars effort, as he was more focused on the teams overall showing. We should be able to count on our defense and our rebounding every night, and when we dont and we dont defend, were not very good.
Acknowledging that the Pacers could be first-round foes next month made the loss doubly hard for Rose, whose body displayed scratches all over as he conducted interviews in the Conseco Fieldhouse visiting locker room.
Im beat up, but thats basketball. Im fresh. I was out there playing my hardest, giving my all, but physically, I feel fine, he said. When you lose, it hurts the same, unless youre in the championship game thats when I think it hurts worse but all these games, when you get to the playoffs, its going to hurt bad if you lose.
We definitely have their attention, have everybodys attention. We started the game off bad, gave them confidence, sluggish and you cant do that against teams like this, Rose continued. Our biggest thing is playing with an edge and being aggressive, and we didnt do that this game. And its because of me.
Although he took it just as hard personally, Noah put the defeat in perspective.
Theyre fighting for their lives, trying to make the playoffs, said Noah, remembering the Bulls plight the previous two seasons. Losing always sucks because you look back and you feel like theres a lot of things we could have done better.
Weve got to move on from it quickly because were playing for big things.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.