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Bulls Fri Apr 22 2011

Bulls Survive Pacers Again, Take 3-0 Lead

In front of a mixed crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis (it's nice having a playoff series within easy driving distance of Chicago), the Bulls kept the Indiana Pacers at bay for a third time last night with a physical, hard fought, 88-84 victory.

bulls pacers vertical.PNGA lot will be written about Derrick Rose once again, as the young point guard came through with a fantastic (and yet so very common for him) drive to the hoop with 17 seconds left to give the Bulls their final lead. But apart from that play, Rose actually had a rough night, certainly by his high standards.

Rose scored 23 points, but shot 4-of-18 from the field. He did draw plenty of hard fouls and hit 13 of 15 free throws. He had a team-high five turnovers, one-third of Chicago's 15, another stat that he certainly won't be pleased with.

Carlos Boozer also once again was held in check by the younger duo of Tyler Hansbrough and Josh McRoberts. Boozer finished with only four points on 2-of-10 shooting. He did grab 11 rebounds, but didn't block any shots or do much at all to keep Indiana players from sauntering into the lane. (Indiana was credited with a 38-16 advantage on points in the paint.) No matter what the Bulls do this postseason, if Boozer keeps riding Rose's coattails like he has so far, he'll fall well short of the offseason hype that accompanied his big-ticket signing.

On the positive side of things, Luol Deng had 21 points, six rebounds and a block while, as usual, playing a game-high 45 minutes.

Kyle Korver also had another good night, in fact, it's worth discussing if he should be playing more minutes with how clutch he's been late in games. Korver scored 12 on 5-of-6 shooting, including 2-of-3 from behind the arc. But perhaps he's just the textbook example of a role player -- any more minutes, and he might change his mentality, which right now seems set to come in off the bench and contribute one or two key baskets, particularly in the fourth quarter.

The eighth-seeded Pacers hung tough again, but after seeing what's going on elsewhere in the first round, I'm less worried about that. People have talked all year about how this is one of the most exciting NBA seasons in a long while, usually chalked up to the astounding play of athletes like Rose, LeBron James, Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant.

But it's time to listen to those who've called it parity, as these playoffs certainly seem to show there's not nearly that big a gap between top and bottom seeds as there usually is. Will people remember this down the line? I'm not sure. Yes, the Bulls are up 3-0 and could sweep the series on Saturday afternoon. But that wouldn't do the Pacers justice or illustrate how difficult these games have been to win for Chicago.

For now, enjoy the fact that the Bulls have won 12 straight and have a chance to wrap this series up early. With hopes resting on a player like Rose who gets knocked to the floor night after night, the rest between opponents can't come soon enough.

 
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