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Bulls' comeback falls short, Pacers get Game 4

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Bulls' comeback falls short, Pacers get Game 4

Saturday, April 23, 2011
Posted: 4:30 p.m. Updated: 7:33 p.m.
By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLISApologies to Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel and the Bulls as a whole. When both parties informed reporters the first-round series between the Central Division rivals wouldnt be a cakewalk for the leagues best regular-season team, many scoffed, even as Indiana took Chicago to the wire in the first three games.

But the point finally hit home Saturday afternoon, when the Pacers topped the top-seeded Bulls, 89-84, Saturday afternoon at Conseco Fieldhouse, extending the series to five games, despite a furious Chicago rally that ultimately fell short. With the added bonus of Derrick Rose being hampered by a sprained left ankle, Indiana took an early double-digit advantage and while the visitors nearly made a miraculous comeback, the home team survived the late onslaught to make it a 3-1 series.

WATCH: Rose discusses his sprained ankle

Both teams looked to get their primary low-post optionsChicagos Carlos Boozer (15 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots) and Indianas Roy Hibbert (16 points, 10 rebounds, three blocksuntracked in the early going and while each big man had mixed results, the contest was as intense and physical from the outset as one would expect of a potential series-clinching affair. The young Pacers werent cowed by the importance of being in an elimination game, however, and took control of the contest with a 7-0 run.

WATCH: Deng says they're not going to panic

We cant keep doing that. They jumped out on us early, Luol Deng (16 points) explained. Weve got to move the ball better, especially in the first half. In the second half, we moved it betterguys were movingbut in the first half, weve got to do a better job just locking in.

Said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau of the Bulls less-than-urgent start: I didnt like it. I thought that they got off to a quick start, we chased them and were playing from behind, and you cant do that.

More important than even the score for the Bulls was a left-ankle sprain suffered by Rose (16 points on 6-for-22 shooting from the floor, 1-for-9 from three-point range and 2-for-4 from the foul line; 10 assists, four steals) after hitting one of his typically acrobatic layups in traffic with just over a minute left in the first quarter, leaving the many Windy City faithful in attendance briefly aghast in horror. At the conclusion of the opening period, the Pacers held a 23-19 lead.

Rose returned to the game early in the second quarter and Indiana immediately employed tough-minded veteran defender Dahntay Jones on himas well as continuing to trapping the point guard near halfcourt with its similarly physical big menwhich was first countered by Rose playing off the ball, then by the Bulls going back to Boozer.
WATCH: Thibodeau on the loss

Rose quickly proved that not did Indianas physical defense not faze him, but his ankle was fine, as he cut backdoor, took a bounce pass from Boozer and exploded for a powerful, two-handed baseline flush, screaming, What! at the PacerJosh McRobertsunderneath the basket when he landed, something out of the ordinary for the mild-mannered star.

Chicago used its active defense to force Pacers turnovers and get its transition game in gear, creeping ever closer to their hosts, but the home team didnt let up, going on a 15-1 run to put the visitors in a double-digit hole. Indianas energy simply overwhelmed the Bulls, who went into the break facing a 49-33 deficit, after a Danny Granger (24 points, 10 rebounds) putback just prior to the halftime buzzer.

Joakim Noah (21 points, 14 rebounds) asserted himself as a rebounder, defender and even scorer early in the third period, playing with his trademark energy, but with Grangers scoring and Hibberts low-post presence, the Bulls could only make up minimal ground.

WATCH: Korver says the Bulls have a lot to learn

Jo played great tonight. It was definitely his best game of the series. Jos been through a lot this year, with injuries and getting sick and rolled ankles, said Kyle Korver. Its kind of taken him a while to find his rhythm, but I thought he played great tonight.

Thibodeau was pleased with Noahs play, but the perfectionist also offered some perspective.

Unfortunately, he picked up the fouls. He played with a lot of energy, was active, scoring the ball, keeping balls alive, hustling. The fouls hurt him a little bit, hurt us. Weve got to stay disciplined. The thing about these games, youve got to maintain discipline throughout the course of the game.

Boozer looked to build on his first-half outing (compared to Thursdays Game 3, at least), but after a strong finish over Hibbert, he felt the need to let the Pacers center know about it, prompting a technical foul.

Kurt Thomas replaced a winded Noah and maintained productivity in the pivot with his always-tough defense and mid-range shooting, aiding Chicago in gradually chipping away at the Pacers lead. Through three quarters, however, Indiana still held a 67-56 advantage.

We didnt play very good basketball in the first three quarters and we were a little flat. We had a lot of turnovers. We werent getting the ball up the floor very quickly and a lot of that has to do with them, said Korver. They were really trapping Derrick hard and it was really giving us problems. Weve got to do a better job of giving him outlets and then once we get there, really attacking and swinging the ball. When youve got two guys on the ball, it should be easy offense.

WATCH: Boozer on coming out better

The final stanza didnt start in ideal fashion for the Bulls, as the Pacers quickly increased their lead before Korver decided to enhance his reputationdespite a three-pointer to beat the shot clock getting waved off after an official reviewas the bane of the Pacers in the fourth quarter.

But the sharpshooter alone wasnt enough, as the Pacers, led by Granger, timely scoring from role players and an improved effort on the boards, kept a comfortable, double-digit distance between themselves and their guests.

Adding to the impending sense of doom was Noah, Chicagos most effective player on the afternoon, picking up his fifth foul with just over five minutes remaining, which also put the Bulls in the penalty. Unforced errors and errant shots began to take a toll on the determined visitors, who continued to play stout defenseforcing multiple shot-clock violationsbut couldnt muster up enough offense, despite Deng coming alive in the second half, to get back into the contest.

Down the stretch, the Pacers youth again showedas it has all series down the stretchas reckless turnovers, poor defense and silly fouls enabled the Bulls to make it a single-digit game with less than two minutes to play. After a frantic sequence ended with a Boozer layup with 46.5 seconds left made it an 84-79 affair, the home team struggled to inbound the ball and Rose got a steal and breakaway dunk to make it a one-possession contest with 38.9 seconds on the clock.

Reserve swingman Mike Dunleavy was fouled on the ensuing possession and split a pair of free throws and on the subsequent Bulls trip, Noah finished a driving layup and was fouled. The charismatic center completed the traditional three-point play to make it 85-84 with 15.3 seconds to go in the barn-burner, sending the arena into a confusedthe Chicago contingent was as just as noisy as the local fansstate of frenzy.

Granger was next in the classic, end-game free-throw parade, and the Pacers go-to scorer sunk both of his attempts, prompting a Bulls timeout. With 14.1 seconds left, the ball was inbounded to Noah and when he couldnt initially get the ball to Rose, a cutting Deng ended up with it and passed it to Boozer, who was short on a corner triple

Obviously I wasnt the first option, but we tried to run the play for our three-point shooters that were out there, said Boozer. Our first, second, third option wasnt open. I just happened to be the one open in the corner. I tried to give it a chance, but it was a little short.

Chicago fouled Granger again and after knocking down a pair of foul shots, Indiana got its first postseason victory in five years.

WATCH: Noah says the playoffs come through Chi-Town

Tough loss. We didnt play well in the first half again, so we definitely have to do a better job with that. Were a team that definitely deals with adversity pretty well. We have high character and we want to win, but were excited because the playoffs have got to go through Chi-Town and were excited about that, said Noah. Every game is the toughest. The next game is always the toughest. This is not easy. This is the NBA playoffs. Everybodys competing hard, everybody wants to win. You see what these games come down to. Its nothing. If we played the way we play in that fourth quarter for 48 minutes, we win that ballgame.

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.

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Neither John Paxson nor Chandler Hutchison himself would admit to what many called the worst kept secret in the pre-draft process. So whether you believe the Boise State senior had a promise from the Bulls that they would select him with the 22nd pick if still available, what Paxson and Gar Forman made clear was that they wanted Hutchison. And they got him.

“There are storylines and rumors all the time in this business and to keep trying to respond to them is often difficult. We liked Chandler a lot,” John Paxson said at the Advocate Center. We scouted him early, we scouted him often and we had our eye on him. He knew we liked him. Most players know when you like them, if you show up a lot and you’re around.”

There was plenty to like. Hutchison blossomed as an upperclassman at Boise State - after a unique basketball upbringing - averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in his final two seasons with the Broncos. His 6-foot-7 NBA-ready frame kept him closer to the basket, leading to the efficient scoring and a blistering 72 percent at the rim, but keeping him a work in project on the perimeter.

He projects as a plus-defender who can defend on the wing and on the block in small-ball lineups and, as a four-year college player, should find minutes in a wing-depleted rotation. Put another way: he’s versatile at a position the Bulls have needed since the day Jimmy Butler walked out the door. Any shooting will be an added bonus.

But was there a promise, Chandler?

“I didn’t have any guarantee on where I was going," he said. "It could have been anywhere. Honestly, my heart was racing from 15 on. It was an exciting moment, though.”

The Bulls drafting Hutchison kept the theme of the night in Chicago trending after they took Wendell Carter 7th overall: complementary pieces to help an improving roster. Where Hutchison excels – physicality, scoring at the rim, defending multiple positions – the players he’ll share the floor with don’t. It’s easier to hide Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen defensively with a physical perimeter threat.

Paxson and Forman mentioned Hutchison's “slashing” multiple times, and that physical, quick style will help a Bulls offense that ranked 28th in the NBA on shots 5 feet and in. That inefficiency was one of the major reasons the team finished 28th efficiency and often struggled to find secondary scoring.

That versatility spans more than just defending, too. Hutchison was asked to become a do-it-all for a Broncos team whose second leading scorer averaged 11.8 points, second leading rebounder averaged 6.6 boards and second leading passer averaged 2.6 assists. Hutchinson did it all for the 23-win Broncos. His usage rate was 33.0, 10th highest in the country and a slight tick above Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (32.5%). His passing, shot creating and eventual shooting make him a Swiss army knife on the wing.

“We think he can put it on the floor and create. He got to the lane a lot as a ball handler. His shot is getting better and better, we think he’ll be able to shoot it from NBA range at some point but that’s an area he’ll have to continue to work on,” Paxson said. “The more guys you have that can handle and create and pass, with the way our game is and the way our floor is spaced, we think he can do those things.”

Promises aside – Hutchison is represented by Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, who has plenty of ties to the Bulls – Hutchison checked all the boxes the Bulls were looking for, especially after they passed on wings like Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox with the 7th pick.

“He addresses a position of need,” Paxson said. “We had debates all through this draft on wings and the type of player we wanted at that position. He fits.”

Wendell Carter Jr. talks up his fit with Lauri Markkanen: 'We're going to be unstoppable'

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USA TODAY

Wendell Carter Jr. talks up his fit with Lauri Markkanen: 'We're going to be unstoppable'

Draft prospects always get asked about how they would fit in with the best players on various teams. Once they are drafted, that goes double

New Bulls' draft pick Wendell Carter Jr. didn't disappoint with his answer about how he can play with Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls' first-round pick from the year before.

“We’re going to be unstoppable," Carter Jr. said to reporters in Brooklyn. "He is a great player, someone I can learn from. A great young player. Someone I can learn from on and off the court. With my work ethic, as I come in I’m going to do all I can do to help my team to win. I think we’ll definitely complement one another on both ends of the court.”

Carter Jr. could play the center next to Markkanen at the power forward spot to form a formidable frontcourt if both players continue to develop.

On the ESPN broadcast of the draft, Chauncey Billups talked about the two big guys and the state of the Bulls in general after Carter Jr. was picked.

"I love what they're putting together there," Billups said of the Bulls. "I like their backcourt with Dunn and LaVine. These two big guys, him and Markkanen, are going to play very well together."