Bulls

Schanowski: Bulls should make short work of Pacers

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Schanowski: Bulls should make short work of Pacers

Friday, April 15, 2011
Posted: 1:23 p.m.

By Mark Schanowski
CSNChicago.com

So, how many games do you think it will take the Bulls to win their first round series against Indiana? Please post your comments in the section below.

I'm thinking five right now. The Pacers showed enough improvement after the coaching change from Jim O'Brien to Frank Vogel that they should get one game in the series, but unless the Bulls struggle with opening round jitters, they should be able to wrap things up in Game 5 at the United Center.

Looking at the match-ups, Indiana does have some size up front that could cause the Bulls some problems in 7-2 center Roy Hibbert and 6-10 power forward Josh McRoberts. McRoberts had a big game against the Bulls back in January, but he's coming off the bench right now with former college player of the year Tyler Hansbrough getting the bulk of the minutes at the power forward spot. Remember, it was Hansbrough who got Indiana off to a fast start in their one victory over the Bulls last month, showing much improved range and accuracy on his jump shot.

Indiana has a former All-Star at the small forward spot in Danny Granger, but he's a high volume shooter who often hurts his team with poor shot selection and decision-making. With potential All-Defensive team small forward Luol Deng guarding Granger, I'm not too worried about him taking over games in this series. And, on the other end of the floor, Deng's ability to hit the three-point shot and go hard to the basket could get Granger in foul trouble since he's not really good at moving his feet on the defensive end.

In the backcourt, the Bulls will always have a huge advantage with the soon-to-be MVP Derrick Rose. As Stacey King would say, Rose is too big, too strong, too fast and too good for Darren Collison to handle. Collison has been a real nice pick-up by the Pacers, and he is one of the quicker point guards in the NBA. But he's too small to handle Rose on his drives to the basket, and if Tom Thibodeau wants to get creative, he could post up Rose on Collison, and possibly force the Indiana coaches to get their floor general off the court.

Indiana does have a number of decent perimeter shooters in Mike Dunleavy, Jr., Brandon Rush and talented rookie Paul George. Rush in particular has hurt the Bulls in the past, and Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer will have to make sure they don't leave any of the Pacers shooting guards open for uncontested three's. Don't fall asleep on George. He's a guy the Bulls liked during pre-draft workouts last summer, but they knew he wouldn't be available at 17, and they wound up trading the pick in the cap-clearing Kirk Hinrich deal with Washington.

As for the benches, the Bulls might not have as big an advantage as you would think. The Pacers' second unit of Dunleavy, Rush, McRoberts, point guard A.J. Price and veteran center Jeff Foster can match-up pretty well with the Bulls' "Bench Mob". And, Indiana also has former Celtics' thug James Posey to call on if they want to take some hard fouls to try to get the Bulls out of their game.

The key for the Bulls is getting Kyle Korver off to a quick start. Hopefully, his 19-point performance in the regular season finale against New Jersey is a sign of things to come in the playoffs. Also, Taj Gibson is starting to play his best basketball again after battling nagging injuries most of the season, and don't forget about wily veteran Kurt Thomas. His toughness and perimeter shooting could come in handy against Hibbert in this series.

Bottom line, the games might be closer than you're expecting, but given the Bulls' stifling defense under Thibodeau, and Rose's burning desire to win, they should advance in five games to play the OrlandoAtlanta winner. The Hawks beat the Magic three out of four times during the regular season, but I'm looking for Dwight Howard and company to advance in six.

What do you think? Please post your comments in the section below.

We'll have all the games in the Indiana series on Comcast SportsNet. Buckle up for some exciting playoff basketball. It should be one heck of a ride.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre- and postgame studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNet Central, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10 p.m.

Unbelievable performance, unexplainable failures leads to Bulls' collapse in New Orleans

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USA TODAY

Unbelievable performance, unexplainable failures leads to Bulls' collapse in New Orleans

Weird things tend to happen in New Orleans. Things filed under “unbelievable” or “unexplainable.”

The Bulls’ double-overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans doesn’t exactly fall under either, but the circumstances leading to it certainly do.

Justin Holiday, the reliable 84 percent free throw shooter missing the last of three freebies that would have ended the game in regulation after being fouled with 0.3 seconds left?

Unexplainable.

“Could’ve won the game with a free throw,” Holiday said, dismissing the notion of nerves. “Thought it was cash, it just didn’t go in. Wasn’t meant to happen, I guess. I was hyped. You get that opportunity, I don’t miss free throws. When you get an opportunity like that, that’s what was on my mind.”

Holiday raced to the 3-point line after the Bulls fell behind 114-112 with three seconds left, drawing a whistle on Darius Miller as the buzzer sounded—giving them a chance to win a game they had no business losing in the first place.

“He made the hard ones, which the first one is the hardest,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He made a great play to be fouled in the first place to even get himself to the line.”

It seemed so unlikely the Bulls would find themselves in their wildest game of the year after seemingly driving the Pelicans to insanity and frustration, taking a 17-point lead with 5 minutes left.

Zach LaVine looked comfortable in his fourth quarter minutes, while Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic hit big shots to extend the Bulls lead—ignoring the irritated atmosphere at the Smoothie King Center as the Pelicans fans felt their team had gotten an unfair whistle.

Then the Pelicans—and their maddeningly talented star DeMarcus Cousins—got mad and took all his frustration out on the Bulls in a historic performance. He needed every bit of the 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists to put the Bulls away, as he bullied the game inside and finessed things from the outside (five 3-pointers) as his teammates finally caught up to his intensity in those frenetic five minutes.

His numbers put him in the company of Wilt Chamberlain—not surprising considering he did everything down the stretch including bringing the ball upcourt as if he were the world’s biggest point guard.

Unbelievable.

“It’s cool to be in company with a guy like Wilt (Chamberlain). He’s a guy that’s put up videogame numbers his entire career,” Cousins said. “Just to have a little game like his, that’s pretty cool.”

His alley-oop to Anthony Davis with 1:39 left in regulation gave him a triple-double and cut the Bulls lead to 110-107, and the Bulls seemed to be in full panic mode. Davis fouled out in the first overtime but not after inflicting 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists of damage in 43 minutes.

“The inability to get a rebound late cost us,” Hoiberg said. “Their pressure, getting into us, really lost all of our pace that we did a good job of for the most part all game. It really slowed us down. That’s what got their run started.”

Jerian Grant, who had performed solidly in Kris Dunn’s absence, then became a target for the Pelicans defense as they harassed Grant, taking the Bulls’ offense out of its rhythm.

Grant had six turnovers in 47 minutes and was visibly bothered by the pressure employed by the Pelicans’ defense, nearly negating his 22-point, 13-assist, five-rebound performance.

“I thought we had really good flow,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Jerian had a really good game. But the pressure really did bother us. Gotta do the things that got you the lead we had. A lot of pace, a lot of movement. A lot of good things.”

The good things certainly included Lauri Markkanen holding his own against Davis and making big defensive plays in the fourth quarter and overtime when the Pelicans foolishly tried to switch Markkanen onto their guards.

But Markkanen kept his composure, moved his feet and was never exploited. Although he shot just 5-for-12 and missed all four of his 3-point attempts, Markkanen took steps forward defensively as he finished with 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

Robin Lopez went at Cousins on the other end, as both were exhausted at the end of the marathon. Lopez scored 22 points in 39 minutes, his only regret likely getting stripped by Cousins at midcourt during the Pelicans’ comeback, leading to free throws.

“We just decided to play defense,” Davis said. “It was tied up going into the fourth quarter. They went on a crazy run. There was like eight minutes left, we just said we going to play defense. Play defense one possession at a time and we are going to be able to come back here.”

Jrue Holiday, Justin’s younger brother, was the main irritant late, along with former Bull E’Twaun Moore, giving just enough support for Cousins and Davis. The Pelicans’ Holiday scored just 12 points with six assists, but had big baskets in the first overtime after Davis fouled out.

“They turned it up, physically,” Justin Holiday said. “My brother started guarding full court. They all starting pressuring us a little more. Sometimes, it’s tough. When they turn the pressure up like that and we have the lead, we don’t necessarily want to be in a rush to score. Then they’re scoring on the other end. We gotta get stops.”

It was hard to ignore how the pressure affected the Bulls. The composure and poise they’ve played with over the last several weeks gave them a level of confidence in hostile environments, but missing Dunn meant they were without a critical part of their offense.

“I don’t wanna say trouble but it bothered us for sure,” Holiday said. “We kinda got sped up. Forget about the offensive end but if we get stops and rebound, we win the game. Again, they have all-stars and things like that, supposed to do their job.”

Even then, though, everyone walking away from the Smoothie King Center knew they witnessed a historic, unbelievable performance as well as an unexplainable collapse.

DeMarcus Cousins made some serious history in the Pelicans' win over the Bulls

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USA TODAY

DeMarcus Cousins made some serious history in the Pelicans' win over the Bulls

DeMarcus Cousins made serious history on Monday night in New Orleans. And no, it wasn't that he played 52 minutes and didn't commit a technical foul.

No, Boogie put together one of the most impressive statlines in NBA history in the Pelicans' double-overtime win over the Bulls. Cousins finished with 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists in win. He became the first player with a 40-20-10 line since Wilt Chamberlain did so in 1968 playing for the 76ers. Chamberlain accomplished the feat four times, and Oscar Robertson did it once in 1965 with a 42-21-10 night for the Cincinnati Royals. 

In 1968 Chamberlain had himself a mammoth night, playing all 48 minutes and going for 53 points, 32 rebounds and 14 assists. In fact, in Chamberlain's four instances of accomplish the feat he averaged 44 points, 27 rebounds and 12.2 assists.

Back to Cousins, he did his damage all over. His wild night included 13-for-29 shooting, five 3-pointers, and he went 13-for-14 from the free throw line. He added four steals and a block and was a +13 in what turned out to be a four-point game.

Cousins played the final 18:36 (minus seven seconds late in the fourth on an offense-for-defense sub), entering the game with 8:36 to play in the fourth quarter and never coming out again. He scored 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Pelicans rallied back down 17 points to force the extra periods.

In the first overtime Cousins had four points and three rebounds, but it was assumed Cousins was going to be the focal point the rest of the night when teammate Anthony Davis fouled out with 2:05 to play.

In the second overtime Cousins gave his last burst, scoring the first five points of the second additional period to give New Orleans a lead. He wound up missing his next and final four shots, but his free throws with 8 seconds left iced the game and gave the Pelicans a four-point lead.

It's no wonder Cousins will start in next month's All-Star Game alongside Davis, who had 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists himself before fouling out in 43 minutes.

Combined the two All-Stars had 78 points, 31 rebounds and 15 assists.