Deja Vu: Pacers make it tight, but Bulls win out

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Deja Vu: Pacers make it tight, but Bulls win out

Monday, April 18, 2011Posted: 11:35 p.m. Updated: 2:06 a.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

An underwhelming performance for three quarters and change. Derrick Rose keeps the Bulls afloat before taking over the game down the stretch late to rescue the Bulls. Throw in a late Kyle Korver three-pointer for good measure. Repeat.

Apparently thats Chicago s strategy in its first-round series against Indiana , as it took another dominant outing from Rose and a bounce-back game from Carlos Boozer to survive the feisty Pacers, 96-90, Monday night at the United Center . The Bulls lead the series 2-0 with Game 3 looming Thursday in Indianapolis .

Im fine with it. As long as were winning, Im not worried about that. My teammates are winners. As long as I keep passing them the ball, telling them to shoot, were good, said Rose, when asked about his ability to shoulder the load. The only thing we can do is get better. We played, I think, our worst and were blessed to get these two wins.

WATCH: Thibodeau on taking care of the ball

Echoed Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Hes a leader, I think hes earned everything that hes gotten, he runs our team great and I think he wants the challenge.

A genuine energy filled the United Center from the outset and even though it wasnt initially an aesthetically-pleasing outing, the renewed hustle of Joakim Noah and improved effort of Boozer (17 points, 16 rebounds) were on full display. Noah played with his former level of intensity, something he struggled to regain through his various rehabilitation processes, while the much-maligned Boozer looked to be more assertive offensively.

Boozer was more aggressive because of not being in foul trouble. His rebounding was great, said Thibodeau. I thought he got off to a good start offensively. We probably should have searched him out more in the post in the second half.

Explained Boozer himself: I just tried to play off my teammates. I thought in the second half, they paid a lot more attention to me, rotating.

The tandem together was a force on the boards, dominating the visitors, although that was mitigated by the Bulls unforced errors on offense, resulting in a low-scoring contest and made more difficult for the hosts when Rose (36 points, six assists, eight rebounds) accrued two early fouls.

WATCH: Rose says Bulls will walk through the fire together

While Boozer scored effectivelydespite uncharacteristic 3-for-7 foul shooting Chicago trailed after the opening period, 18-17.

Behind reserves like Mike Dunleavy and A.J. Price (13 points), Indiana gradually opened up a gap between the two squads, as the Bulls were absolutely frigid from the field and unable to prevent the sweet-shooting Pacers from knocking down deep jumpers. But upon the return of Rose, the Bulls played at a faster paceand with more passion in generalmaking it a close-knit affair.

Once again, however, the visitors withstood Chicago s push and opened up another comfortable margin, but suffered a major loss when point guard Darren Collison injured himself by crashing into baseline photographers after completing a fast-break layup, resulting in a sprained left ankle.

I just remember going up for a layup and I think I rolled on it wrong, Collison recalled. Ninety percent of the time, if I have an injury like that, Id go right back out there and play on it, but its just frustrating because I cant even jog on it.

Right now, I think its day-to-day. Most likely, Im going to try to be back for Game 3.

It an X-ray was negative. Right now, its just real sore and swelled up pretty bad, but well see.

Said Pacers interim head coach Frank Vogel of his floor general: Hes a big part of what we do.

You always miss your leader, just from a cohesiveness standpoint and everything.

The Bulls turned up the defensive pressure late and by virtue of forcing turnovers, the home team climbed back to cut the deficit to 47-44 at halftime.

As the Bulls are prone to do, they stormed back after the break, going on an 11-3 run to open the third quarter.

WATCH: Deng says playoffs are never pretty

Luol Deng (14 points, six rebounds) came alive to complement Roses effortsnot only as a scorer, but as a distributorand Boozer continued his ownership of the glass, as well as his low-post scoring. Suddenly, Indiana was on its heels and Chicago again resembled the unselfish, defensive-minded, 62-win team it was during the regular season.

Everybody contributed to the Bulls third-quarter chargefrom veteran role players Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas to primary scorers Boozer and Rosebut it was the improved team defense that truly led the way. Thibodeaus bunch got back to its active, help-side ways, enabling them to create easy opportunities via the transition game.

Still, behind go-to scorer Danny Granger (19 points), the Pacers didnt fade away quietly and aided by some careless Chicago miscues, tied it 67 apiece following a successful T.J. Ford half-court prayer at the third-period buzzer.

The final stanza started inauspiciously enough for the Bulls, as it became clear that Indiana was more than eager to engage in the grind-it-out style of play that worked so often for the hosts in the regular season.

With the Pacers also getting timely outside shooting, strong play off the bench and a physical, active defense, the guests had all the momentum.

Every fan, member of the media, team employee and player in the arena knew where the Bulls would turn to bail them out: Rose, who delivered in his typically cold-blooded fashion, knocking down jumpers and careening past Indiana defenders like a pinball for a remarkable finish, a trip to the charity stripe or both.

The game dictates that. Hes a primary scorer, the balls in his hands a lot and we need him to score, so hes done it, said Thibodeau. But Im comfortable with his decision-making, too. Hes going to make the right play. I dont think you see the impact he really has by his assist number.

Added Boozer: We got the ball in the MVPs hands and he took over, which is normal for us. I know we keep talking about it every day like were surprised, but we shouldnt be surprised anymore, right?

Rose provided Chicago with a slight cushion and when the young Pacers couldnt respond, he once again found Korver, the teams designated sharpshooter for a clutch three-pointer, making it a 90-85 game in the Bulls favor with 1:04 to play.

WATCH: Noah says Rose is "big time"

We did a great job on him all night. Hes a great player, said Vogel. He made key plays down the stretch to win the game for them

Were just trying to give him some different looks. Give him a steady diet, he picks you apart, he continued. We tried to trap Rose out at halfcourt, as opposed to him drawing our whole team and then finding him.

Our guys played their hearts out. Cant ask for anything more than that.

The game seemed in the bag for Chicago, but despite Indiana not being able to capitalize on some fortuitous opportunities in the waning moments, Rose proved he was both a giver and taker after fouling Price on a three-pointer with 23.4 seconds left, a call that earned the scorn of the home fans.

Price drained the trio of free-throw attempts to make it a two-point game, but Bulls sealed the deal by navigating the inevitable end-game foul scenario and subsequent foul-line parade with success.

These games are definitely tough. It takes a punishment to keep going in there and keep getting beat up. Tonight, I just tried to mix up my game, shoot jump shots a little bit. But Im going to still attack, play the way that I playaggressiveand that opens up my teammates, said Rose. The only thing Im worried about is my turnovers. Of course, I had six of them. That definitely changed the game. If anything, I can learn from it and do better next time. With the team, weve got to come out with an edge, got to take their confidence and we didnt do that tonight. it was still a pretty close game, all the way until the end.

WATCH: Korver on cleaning up some things

Were very happy to be here, of course. We wouldnt take anything back, but our play has to get better. Weve got to be more smooth, more efficient, especially on the defensive end, where weve got to try a lot harder. But I feel like were going to get things together pretty quickly.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Celtics trade for Jimmy Butler?

On the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Kevin Anderson, Vincent Goodwill and Kendall Gill welcome in SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to discuss the Celtics' motivation to trade for Jimmy Butler. 

The guys also break down whether the league is undervaluing the Bulls All-Star. 

Later, they debate the contant Lebron James vs. Michael Jordan comparison and ask if it's fair after the King's poor showing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. O'Donnell also analyzes the NBA Draft. He believes Terrance Ferguson is the right pick for GarPax. 

Finally, a behind the scenes look at Goodwill vs. Kendall on the court, and Kendall on the right way to parent a young athlete. 

Listen to the Bulls Talk Podcast below. 

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

NBA Buzz: Financial and competitive realities could lead to Jimmy Butler trade for Bulls

Watching LeBron James tear through the Eastern Conference playoffs the way Michael Jordan used to do in his prime, it's become increasingly apparent other teams in the East will be chasing James and the Cavaliers for the next 3-5 years.

With that in mind, you have to wonder what kind of conversations are going on inside the walls of the Advocate Center as the Bulls' front office prepares for the June 22nd draft and the start of free agency on July 1st. 

Jimmy Butler earned third-team All-NBA honors on Thursday, putting him in position to earn the Designated Veteran Player Extension with another All-NBA selection in either 2018 or 2019. Under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, that could mean a contract starting at $42 million in 2019-20 with a total five-year value of over $246 million.

Are the Bulls prepared to pay that kind of money to a player who has logged big minutes over his career and will turn 30 just before the 2019-20 season?

If not, the best time to deal Butler would be right now. Butler is coming off the best season of his NBA career, including a starting spot for the Eastern Conference in the All-Star game. Plus, he still has two more guaranteed years on his contract at far below market value for one of the top 15 players in the league.

Tuesday's draft lottery pretty much eliminated Boston from a potential Butler trade. Celtics' GM Danny Ainge loves Washington point guard Markelle Fultz and is locked in to drafting him with the number one pick. Boston's future couldn't look brighter after finishing with the best regular season record in the East, advancing to the Conference Finals, and winning the lottery.

The Celtics will add Fultz and still have enough cap room to offer a max deal to free agent swingman Gordon Hayward, who played collegiately for Boston coach Brad Stevens at Butler. How does a starting line-up of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley sound, with a second unit of Fultz, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk? It might not be good enough to take down the Cavs or Warriors, but should position the Celtics for a long run as a serious contender.

So, if the Celtics are out, where would the Bulls look for a possible Butler deal? Phoenix probably holds the best combination of assets, starting with the No. 4 overall pick. If point guards Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox go 1-2-3, the Bulls could grab Kansas forward Josh Jackson, an Andrew Wiggins-clone who could wind up being the best player in this draft.

The Suns also have a pair of intriguing young power forwards in Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender, both top 10 picks a year ago. Plus, Phoenix could include 23-year-old small forward T.J. Warren and Chicago native Tyler Ulis in the package going back to the Bulls.

Suns GM Ryan McDonough is reportedly under pressure to show significant improvement next season after winning just 47 games combined over the last two years. Adding another young player to the roster isn't the best way to improve the team immediately, so don't be surprised if the Suns make a pitch to acquire Butler in the days leading up to the draft.

Similar story in Philadelphia, where the Sixers own the third overall pick next month. Under former GM Sam Hinkie, the "trust the process" approach led to a roster purge and the acquisition of lottery picks. Right now, the Sixers are overloaded with young players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Justin Anderson and Nik Stauskas.

Would current GM Bryan Colangelo be willing to trade the pick, along with Okafor and Anderson in a package for Butler? The Bulls could choose between Jackson and Kentucky's lightning-quick point guard Fox with the draft pick they’d acquire, potentially adding three young starters to a new-look line-up. 

Given all the trade rumors surrounding Butler in the past, you can expect a number of teams will be calling the Bulls leading up to the draft, including Tom Thibodeau's Timberwolves, coming off a disappointing season with assets to offer like Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh overall pick. 

Ultimately, it comes down to which direction the Bulls' front office wants to go. Try to build a contender around Butler, or use him as the trade asset to start a full re-build. We should get our answer in the days leading up to the draft.

Around the Association

Thursday's All-NBA announcement could lead to a pair of All-Star forwards changing teams this summer. We already mentioned Hayward's situation in Utah. Without the designated veteran player extension, he might be seriously tempted to join his old college coach in Boston. 

Hayward could sign a one year contract with a player option for a second season in Utah with hopes of earning the DVPE next summer, but if Hayward hits the open market, it's clear he'll be the number one target for the Celtics this off-season. 

Paul George also could be in play after failing to make one of the three All-NBA teams. The Pacers were hoping to sign their All-Star forward to a max five-year extension at over $200 million, but George isn't eligible now. George still could sign an extension with Indiana, but not at the dollars he would have received had he made All-NBA. 

Rumors of George's desire to join his home-state Lakers in free agency after the 2017-18 season continue to grow, especially with Magic Johnson likely to add dynamic point guard Lonzo Ball in next month's draft. The Pacers might be forced to trade George to get some assets now, rather than let him walk away for nothing in free agency next summer.

Back to the Bulls, who will bring in dozens of prospects to Chicago to work out at the Advocate Center before the draft. Unless they make a major trade to move up, the front office almost has to go "best player available" with their picks at Nos. 16 and 38. Look for them to focus on an athletic wing in the first round with Louisville's Donovan Mitchell, Indiana's OG Anunoby, Duke's Harry Giles and Australian pro Terrance Ferguson among the likely options. 

But if the team decides to part company with restricted free agent Niko Mirotic, that could open the door for the Bulls to select a power forward like Cal's Ivan Rabb, Wake Forest's John Collins, Utah's Kyle Kuzma or UCLA's T.J. Leaf. They could even draft an athletic young center like Jarrett Allen of Texas, Creighton's Justin Patton or UCLA's Ike Anigbogu.

In Round 2, the Bulls might look to add another young point guard to the mix like Oklahoma State's Jawun Evans, Iowa State's Monte Morris, Villanova's Josh Hart, Gonzaga's Nigel Williams Goss or Big 12 Player of the Year Frank Mason from Kansas.

Quotes of the Week

The Celtics might have edged Cleveland out for the top seed in the East during the regular season, but after watching Game 1 Wednesday night, it's clear Brad Stevens’ team will be lucky to get a win in the series.

This from Stevens about the NBA's version of Benjamin Button, LeBron James. "It's hard to believe, but he's better than when I got into the league. A lot better."

Still, Celtics' star Isaiah Thomas isn't about to concede the series just yet, saying, "We're not afraid of Cleveland. They're not the Monstars."  

Well, Thomas might be right about the rest of the Cavs. But if you remember the movie "Space Jam", I'm pretty sure James would be a good fit in that Monstars line-up. And the Celtics don't have Michael Jordan, Bugs Bunny or Bill Murray!