Basketball: Bulls squeak by Pacers in game one of playoffs

— Best record in the NBA will mean nothing without advancement in the playoffs

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

The Chicago Bulls completed the regular season with a 62-20 record, the best in the NBA. They finished the season with nine straight wins. They earned the top seed in the postseason playoffs.

All of that fails to mean anything if they don’t defeat the Indiana Pacers in the first round. Game one of the best-of-seven series did go to the Bulls, but barely. The Bulls won the game 104-99. Their first lead of the game did not come until inside the final 2 minutes of the game.

With the game tied at 99 at the 1:13 mark of the game, 3-point specialist Kyle Korver worked his magic and sank a shot from beyond the arc to give the Bulls their first lead of the game. The Bulls’ defense then took over and held the Pacers scoreless for the rest of the game. Joakim Noah contributed two huge blocked shots in the final seconds of the game to secure the victory.

The Pacers came into the series stating the key to winning would be to shut down Bulls superstar and league MVP candidate Derrick Rose. As Indiana’s guard Derren Collison said: “We know (Rose) will take the majority of their shots. He’s their primary scorer, and we have to lock in on him. We’ve got to make it as hard on him as possible. The main thing is to attack him, and for the most part, we did that today.”

The Pacers hung on Rose throughout the game like a cheap suit. They hammered him with a barrage of hard fouls. He answered by going 19-of-21 from the charity stripe and added another 20 from the field to finish with 39.

The Bulls are expected to win the series, but to do so, they’re going to need more of a team effort than they got in game one. Luckily for the Bulls, Rose was able to carry the load in the first game.

“We’ve got to do a better job to give (Rose) some support,” Korver said. “We just can’t go (isolation) the whole game. I mean, he’s gonna wear down eventually, and we want to play for a while. At the same time, he’s so good, it’s like ‘Give him the ball, give him the ball,’ you know?”

The Bulls and Pacers played the second game of their series Monday night at the United Center in Chicago. At press time, the results of that game were unavailable.

From the April 20-26, 2011 issue

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