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« NBA Playoffs: Top 10 Chicago Natives Inside the Bulls' Game 1 Comeback »

Bulls Sat Apr 16 2011

Bulls Wake Up Late, Surge Past Pacers

Well, that certainly wasn't easy. But despite not leading the game once until the final minute, the Bulls overcame the physical play and hot shooting of No. 8 seed Indiana to escape with a 104-99 win this afternoon at the United Center.

If the young Bulls had any doubt what playoff basketball really means, they should know now.

bulls pacers vertical.PNGLet's take a look at what caused a supposedly easy opponent to beat up on the Bulls so much, and what the team (read: Derrick Rose) did to power them over the top for another fourth quarter come-from-behind victory, their 12th of the year.

For those of you who may have just turned into the Bulls for the first time today, Rose put on a show. The point guard scored 39 points, including 19-of-21 on free throws -- two more points than Indiana had from the stripe and the most any NBA player has had in a playoff game since Allen Iverson in 2002.

He was fearless going to the basket, despite getting fouled hard every time he did. The young player who missed critical free throws at the end of the 2008 NCAA national championship game has clearly disappeared, and who remains is a calm, collected shooter who steps up to the line with confidence. The only real disappointment in his game today was his outside shooting; despite showing all year his increased ability to hit the three, Rose went 0-for-9 today behind the arc.

Kyle Korver got his playoff reps in early, coming off the bench to score 13, including the go-ahead 3-pointer (off a Rose assist) with 48 seconds left that gave Chicago its first lead at 102-99. For a player that needs to have confidence to play well, it was a welcome sight to see Korver go 4-for-4 on threes.

One play showed all you need to know about his current mindset: after taking a kick-out pass on the left wing, Korver stepped up, hesitated and pulled it down, but then reloaded and sank the three anyway. I don't expect we'll see that doubt in Monday's Game Two, and that's good news for the Bulls.

Besides team defense as a whole (Indiana shot 46 percent from the field, including 55 percent from 3-point range), the other disappointing factor today was Carlos Boozer. Boozer was largely ineffective, scoring only 12 points and grabbing six rebounds. He also had five personal fouls, which both stemmed from and caused his weak play. Boozer is a two-time all-star with a nine-figure contract, but Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts have no doubt they can hang with him.

In the end, the Bulls got the win, and I don't think it's accurate to say they got lucky. That 16-1 run over the final 3 1/2 minutes wasn't luck, not once they upped their level of energy. But Tom Thibodeau will certainly be telling them that teams can't coast far in the playoffs, though I expect it's a lesson they've already learned.

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