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Bulls Sun Apr 17 2011

Inside the Bulls' Game 1 Comeback

joakim noah game 1.PNG

Joakim Noah / Tribune photo: Nuccio DiNuzzo

It wasn't just that the Bulls trailed by 10 points with 3 1/2 minutes remaining. It was how they'd gotten there, getting outplayed all over the court by the eighth-seeded Pacers, the worst team in the 2011 playoffs.

Thumbnail image for chicagobulls.pngDerrick Rose had 30-some points, but few if any of his teammates were playing the type of basketball that had earned Chicago the league's best regular-season record. Their vaunted defense had been diced up time and again by Indiana's compendium of solid but unspectacular young players.

So it was easy to abandon hope when Tyler Hansbrough stripped Carlos Boozer at the top of the key and took it in for a fast-break dunk plus the foul. The three-point play epitomized Hansbrough's game-long dominance of Boozer and gave the visitors a 98-88 lead that seemed awfully decisive.

A few minutes later, the Bulls and the capacity crowd were roaring with excitement, celebrating a 104-99 win. They had scored on their final seven possessions and shut down the Pacers almost entirely, ending the game on a 16-1 run.

Rarely does a team flip the switch so completely and abruptly. Here's how it all went down:

1A -- Rose passes to Kyle Korver on the left wing, who finds Luol Deng curling into the lane. He gets fouled and hits both free throws. Bulls 90

1B -- Danny Granger gets a pick at the top of the key, but Deng contests well and his 3-pointer misses.

2A -- Rose pushes the ball and gets Korver an open jumper at the foul line; it misses, but Noah tips in a put-back basket on the second try. Bulls 92

2B -- Hansbrough beats Boozer off the dribble from the top of the key, but his layup attempt is too strong. Noah slaps the rebound loose and Rose tracks it down in the corner.

3A -- Rose pushes it again as Noah sprints down ahead of Granger, Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert, catches a bullet chest pass from Rose and dunks it while being fouled. The crowd goes nuts, Indiana calls timeout, but Noah can't convert the three-point play. Bulls 94

3B -- Deng smothers Granger on the perimeter, but Hibbert draws a foul on Noah inside a moment before the shot-clock buzzer. He hits 1 of 2 free throws. Pacers 99

4A -- Trailing by five as the clock ticks under 2 minutes, Chicago goes to its bread and butter: Everyone sinks below the foul line to isolate Rose at the top of the key. Rose blasts left into the lane, past Paul George, and Hibbert is late getting over, committing a blocking foul as Rose absorbs the contact and reaches around to finish a scoop shot. Rose pounds his chest as the fans roar, then sinks the free throw. Bulls 97

4B -- Darren Collison, fading fast after a strong start, eases behind a pick and pulls up at the top of the key, but his jumper falls short.

5A -- Rose isolates and drives left again on George, then spins back right and tosses up a high floater in the lane that ties the score. Bulls 99

5B -- Granger gets smothered on the baseline by Deng and Noah and shovels a pass to Collison under the basket. Korver blocks the layup attempt.

6A -- Rose gets a Noah pick to drive past George and Hibbert into the lane, where Hansbrough steps up to meet him and Collison slides all the way over from the left wing. With four defenders focused on him, Rose kicks out a pass to Korver, wide open for a 3-pointer that gives Chicago its first lead with 48 seconds left. Bulls 102

6B -- After a timeout, Indiana quickly gets Granger an open jumper from the wing, but that's off too, and Noah grabs the rebound.

7A -- The Bulls kill as much clock as possible before Deng has to take a tough leaner to beat the shot clock buzzer. But the rebound gets batted around and Kurt Thomas runs it down in the corner. Rose adds two free throws with 14 seconds left. Bulls 104

7B -- Indiana calls timeout to set up another sad, thwarted offensive play that ends with Mike Dunleavy throws up a long 3-pointer over Ronnie Brewer's outstretched arms. Josh McRoberts rebounds the miss but Noah blocks him twice underneath and the ball bounces out of bounds off McRoberts.

Noah roars, the fans roar and the No. 1 team in the league is about to survive an unexpectedly strong opening test.

 
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