Pacers' Collison a game-time decision for Game 3

Pacers' Collison a game-time decision for Game 3

Thursday, April 21, 2011
Posted: 1:02 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam

INDIANAPOLISWhether Pacers starting point guard Darren Collison plays in Thursdays Game 3 of Indianas first-round series against the Bulls will be a game-time decision. Collison, who sprained his left ankle after crashing into baseline photographers at the United Center during the first half of Mondays Game 2 for Indiana, tested the ankle for the first time since the injury at Thursdays Pacers shootaround.

Feeling good. Im going to be able to play today. Its still up in the air, game-time decision, but I think mostly, Im going to be able to play today. But well see how I feel before the game and Im going to give it a shot, said a confident Collison. I felt fine. We had shootaround, I did my thing. I didnt play too long, thats why its still a game-time decision, but for the most part, I think Im going to play.

Its not going to be 100-percent perfect, but at the same time, the more movement I get, the better it feels, continued the second-year UCLA product. Ill pick my spots. I know exactly when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive.

But Im not really concerned with that. The thing about that, they know you have an ankle injury, so you know theyre going to try to run plays for you. Im well aware of that and Im going to be prepared for that.

Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel added: Collison looked pretty good during shootaround. Were going to see how he feels, to see if he has any soreness. This is his first live work since the other night. Its going to be a game-time decision.

He wants to play very badly. If its up to him, its a no-brainer. Weve just got to make sure hes effective, continued Vogel, who noted that the decision would be based on how Collison performed during a pre-game workout. Hes got to be able to move to play.

I just have to have a feel, take a look at him and well go from there.

While Vogel preached caution, the upbeat floor general presumed hed be on the court for Indianas first home game of the series.

I think my adrenaline will be up, though. The energy, the excitement of trying to play in Game 3. Its a playoff game, so why not be in it? I dont know when Im going to get my chance again, so Im definitely going to be up for it. So, all that is going to be a factor, said Collison. Ultimately, I think theyre going to give me the decision for myself. They know Im a competitor, they know I want to play as much as anybody else on the court and I definitely dont want to leave my team hanging. I want to be out there.

We definitely feel like this is the game for us. Game 3 is the most important game of the series. We definitely feel like this is a game for us to win. We had a great film session Wednesday, great practice Wednesday and great shootaround.

Echoed Vogel: Were excited about being here. Were excited that we can win. Being back in our building obviously increases the chances that were going to get our first playoff win in a number of years.

While Collison is the Pacers starting floor general, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, as is his custom, was prepared for all of Indianas options at the position if he doesnt play.

Theyre a good team and they have quality depth at the point. If Collison plays, obviously Collisons had an excellent year for them, said Thibodeau. A.J. Price has played very, very well, and T.J. Fords been a good player in this league for a long time. Hes more than capable. We know how good he is.

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.

As Dunn, Markkanen break out of respective slumps, consistency becomes next factor


As Dunn, Markkanen break out of respective slumps, consistency becomes next factor

Whether the Bulls earn wins against other bottom feeders or rack up losses to improve their positioning in the Zion Williamson sweepstakes, continued progression from their core will be important over the final three weeks of the regular season.

With Otto Porter nursing a shoulder injury for the second consecutive game and Zach LaVine a late scratch with a thigh bruise, all eyes were on Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn as both attempted to break out of slumps against a porous Wizards defense.

Both players made good on their opportunity, shining in high-usage roles that helped the Bulls knock off the Wizards in overtime, 126-120. Markkanen broke out of a long shooting slump and made two critical plays in the final minute of regulation, while Dunn scored eight points in an overtime period and provided some stifling defense on All-Star Bradley Beal to secure the victory.

Not all slumps are created equal, but it was nice to see both Markkanen and Dunn play well with the Wizards defense honed entirely in on them. They attempted 45 of the Bulls’ 106 shot attempts and combined for 58 points, 19 rebounds, 18 assists and just three turnovers in 78 combined minutes.

For Markkanen, his slump from beyond the arc had been a puzzling one. Dating as far back as Jan. 6, Markkanen was making less than 34 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Even in February, when he was an Eastern Conference Player of the Month finalist, he made just just 35 percent of his triples in 10 games. In March, that percentage had dipped to a lowly 28 percent.

But he was a different player on Wednesday night. He buried his first triple in the opening minutes and didn’t slow down after that, connecting on 5 of 8 from beyond the arc; it was the most triples he had made in a game since Feb. 6 and his best percentage on seven attempts or more all season.

“When you go 5 for 8 from the 3 that helps his game,” Jim Boylen said. “Moving him around, get him coming off the baseline, we get him going downhill, turning a corner. But I think when that 3 ball starts going down for him it all kind of comes together for him. I think for him, when he rebounds the ball he plays well.”

Past the outside shooting, Markkanen had broke a nine-game stretch without scoring 20 points after doing so 10 straight times in February. He scored 32 points, his most since Feb. 23 against the Celtics, and grabbed 13 rebounds, his most since March 5 against the Pacers.

Markkanen said he continues to watch film to improve his shooting – he noticed he was fading away on some 3-pointers that caused him to come up short – and is looking for new ways to attack defenses differently to remain consistent.

“Last year I was able to shoot the ball and surprise some teams,” he said. “Not surprising anybody this year so I kind of have to figure it out how to get around different coverages and stuff like that. You play a lot of games in this league so it’s tough to be consistent but you’ve got to be mentally tough.”

Even during Markkanen’s “slump” he was averaging 15.9 points and 8.4 rebounds in March. But he’s aware of what’s being asked of him as the 21-year-old face of the Bulls rebuild and knows that a consistent effort that produces results will take him to the next level.

“My confidence is up there and I obviously have a long way to go but I was playing better in February and I was kind of thinking that I can play like that in the future consistently,” he said. “I’ve got ways to go but my confidence is definitely up there.”

In Dunn’s case, baby steps still count as progress. His 26-point, 13-assist night was his best performance in months, and it continued a trend of him playing well with LaVine out of the lineup. With the Bulls’ shooting guard in the lineup Dunn is averaging 10.3 points on 40 percent shooting with 5.9 assists. In the nine games LaVine has missed that Dunn has been active, Dunn is averaging 17.1 points on 49 percent shooting and 7.1 assists.

He’s shown consistency as the lead ball handler when LaVine is out of the lineup, but of course that won’t be very often heading into the future.

Instead, Dunn’s consistency needs to come on learning to play with the ball-dominant LaVine and excel in other areas when he isn’t constantly the initiator on offense. Shooting 3 of 7 from beyond the arc was a good start, and although his 10 of 24 from the field was ugly, he was aggressive, played downhill and opened up plenty for the Bulls offense, which shot 47 percent from the field and made 12 triples. he also played excellent defense late on Bradley Beal. The combination of Dunn and Shaq Harrison forced Beal to go 4 of 13 with 12 points after halftime.

“It’s a learning thing as we go,” Boylen said of Dunn learning to play with LaVine, Markkanen and Porter. “I don’t really have the answer for that. I think it’s a feel, playing together and obviously in those moments when they’re in the game you have to be really efficient with your shots and what you’re doing because there’s other guys out there.

“But if anything tonight was a confidence booster to hang in there and stay the course, man. Keep grinding. Believe in yourself and it’ll turn for you.” 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis are back in town


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis are back in town

Jordan Cornette, David Haugh and Mark Schanowski join David Kaplan on the panel.

1:15 - The Bulls are without Otto Porter Jr. as they take on the Wizards

2:30 - Robin Lopez has been on a roll

6:00 - Jabari Parker's relationship with Jim Boylen

7:45 - Eloy Jimenez signs extension with the White Sox

11:00 - NCAA March Madness is underway

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: