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Sunday, February 5

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Bulls Mon Mar 05 2012

As The Bulls Turn: Old Face, New Foe, Same Polka

My apartment was broken into over the weekend. My laptop was stolen (sweet!) and so was my wireless router/modem doohickey (again, sweet!). Now, aside from presuming, not accurately, but humorously, that the human garbage who took said items were tech-loathing, Luddites of the first order, and the implied fear-mongering, knife-sharpening, bottle-throwing that ensued "OMG! WHUT! RAWWWR!"* Contemplate the fact that these brigands crippled me in a gut-punch, "Wah, I'm tethered to my laptop and wifi, "NO! NETFLIX!" Wah!", visceral level sort of way.

Now bear with the author, as he makes the awkward, but inevitable, leap to pointing out how good the Indiana Pacers are and how they, not only, broke into the United Center, and handed the Bulls their first home loss of the season, but, also, cripple the Bulls in a dreadful, "Not enough ammo, more protection," sense.

The Laptop

The Pacers are very good. Like behind only Miami and Chicago in the Eastern Conference- good. Like only four games behind the Heat for second-best record in the East. Like only four teams in the league have a better record. Like they are only one of two teams to have beaten the Lakers at Staples Center. Mind you, they've been stuffing themselves on the high calorie-likes of NBA cupcakes --What up, Bobcats! But have also been a thorn in the side of the NBA's best? How? By running with a pretty efficient defense and an offense that centers around center, Roy Hibbert, the "not-just-for-dunk contests," Paul George, silencio, himself: Danny Granger and the taller version of Danny Granger, David West. The Pacers are an anonymous bunch, "Casual fans, name who? Granger? Hibbert?" But there is legion in that anonymity. Like a band of guerrillas fighting in the muck and underbrush, the Pacers continually are surprising the NBA's elite and not-so-elite.

And while Bulls backers would really like to believe the Pacers W-L record is a mirage, their galling and continual nipping at Chicago's heels in the divisional standings suggests otherwise. Indy has faced, much like the Bulls, its fair share of middling teams, but the way this team plays, it's no smoke-and-mirror act. The harder-than-it-looked, first-round series last season? No hokum, kids. The Pacers are a very real team, they bludgeon Derrick Rose because they know Rose, for all his physicality, isn't such a fan, like anyone is?, of rakes across the face, of hard fouls in mid-air, of being forced to live at the charity stripe.

The Pacers, built like a Bulls-Lite, with a less-explosive point, and, if we're being honest, maybe a slightly less-heralded but more (gasp!) talented supporting cast, have listened to, and bought the recorded works of head coach Frank Vogel since he took over for Jim O'Brien in January of '11. Vogel, a vaguely Thibodeau-esque coach, has led this team and taught them the art of effort, of making the other teams work for it, and it has worked and worked thus far for the Pacers.

The Router/Modem Doohickey

Beyond the yeoman demeanor, the Pacers, unfortunately, matchup all too well against our protagonists, "Your Chicago Bulls." The human monolith, Hibbert, has historically just destroyed Joakim Noah. Hibbert, who is quietly having "a helluva season," did very much the "destruction" thing against JoNo in the 1/25 United Center win and the onus is on Joakim to show something tonight against Hibbert. Noah, who, bear in mind, has been on "a helluva run" lately, really needs to body up on Hibbert, so as to avoid the all too common "Deng, Noah, are both out of position because of Boozer" game. Time will tell, but Noah does not handle the larger centers too well. What with Indy's roster of HGH-fueled bigs --lest we forget Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff "The Economist" Foster-- Noah and Boozer (and Taj, Omer, the rest) need to [Grow a few inches? Put on a few pounds? -Ed.] do their best to limit Indy's trio of bigs.

The Indy-Chi rivalry has had it moments, but not for a 15-year spell, has their been this edge, this tooth-nail-claw snarl to it. Derrick "No Need For Emotive Expression" Rose of all people showed fury at Indy's bush-league celebration on the court back in January. This rivalry's flames have been stoked back to life. The partners are different, but the faces, the team colors? It's the same polka it's always been. Thanks, NBA.

Anything Else?

Not really, I watched the Philly-Chicago game last night through a fog of whiskey and self-pity after the break-in and "disappearing" of my beloved technology. However, a big "Yo, What's Up" Award goes to Deron Williams for dropping 57(!) against the Bobcats. I told you guys, New Jersey is going to be so much fun to watch in the second half of the season. [nodding head in a smug, entitled sense] "Lay off, my apartment got burgled!"

*Likely an actual quote from my kitchen.

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