2011 NBA Playoffs: Inexperience Shows in Young Pacers, Leaves Fans Heartbroken

Geoff EstesCorrespondent IApril 16, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 16: Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls and Tyler Hansbrough #50 of the Indiana Pacers battle for position on a free-throw in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs at the United Center on April 16, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Pacers 104-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Not many in Pacer-land expect the Pacers to win the opening round series against the Bulls

Some of us, however, had visions of shocking the nation and sneaking in a win or two.  The Pacers seemed on the verge of doing that this afternoon in Chicago, until the meltdown in the final minutes.

The comeback by the Bulls has been well documented today, so I won't recap the drama. The part that interests me more is the way the Pacers, and their fans, will react to this loss. 

I, for one, am proud of the Pacers and the way they played today. 

I know it may seem childish to blame the officials, but my goodness, was that a terribly officiated game.  The Heat vs. 76ers game wasn't any better. 

The free throws attempted disparity in those two games looks like this: Pacers and 76ers attempted 32 combined, while the Bulls and Heat attempted 71.  In tough, physical games like the ones today, that should not happen.

With that being said, the Pacers still shot themselves in the foot in the final minutes.  Tyler Hansbrough was nearly unguardable. The only shot I remember him missing during crunch time was the runner over Boozer, which was a great look. He did not attempt a shot after that. 

Roy Hibbert touched it once in the post and drew a foul on Noah as the shot clock ran down.  He didn't get the ball in the post again.  Instead, Darren Collison and Danny Granger, who each played a fantastic game, dominated the ball and forced up contested jumpers. 

The Pacers' inexperience showed in those final minutes. 

The ball should have stayed with the hot hands, instead of the same old song and dance with Granger and Collison dribbling for 20 seconds only to force something.  It was a frustrating thing to watch.

There is a silver lining to all of this, though.  The Pacers out-played the team with the best record in the NBA, in their house, for 45 minutes. 

The young Pacers, with their young coach, looked like the more composed team, even though the other team was seemingly getting the calls.  The Pacers didn't lose their composure like Luol Deng or Kurt Thomas every time a foul was called on them, they just panicked late in the game, which, admittedly, was the wrong time to panic.

It was heartbreaking for us fans, as I'm sure it was for the players. 

How they bounce back will be the question.  Can the players bring the same intensity and confidence Monday night?  Can Frank Vogel gameplan for the defensive adjustments the Bulls will surely make?  Will Danny Granger continue to force shots, or will he play within the confines of the offense like he did for the third quarter today?  There are a lot of questions coming into game two.

While the questions for game two pertain to the game itself, I think game three is going to be a big game for the Pacers franchise.  They were announced as having the worst attendance in the league this season, which should never happen in basketball-loving Indianapolis. 

The fans witnessed their first Pacers playoff game in five years today, and had their hearts ripped out by a 16-1 Bulls run.  Will they show up in Indiana Thursday night and show the young Pacers some support, or has their hope been crushed after today's game? 

I think, or I hope, that they'll show up and yell like it's 1998.

We have sat through so many tough years as Pacers fans.  Things haven't been good ever since the brawl.  But now we have a team worth watching, even if they are wildly inconsistent. 

They gave us a two hour glimpse into the franchise's proud past and promising future today.  It is time to rise up and give the young kids some support.  Today could be a flash in the pan for the Pacers, or it could be the start of things to come for a franchise with promising youngsters. 

Let's be proud to be Pacers fans again and jump on the bandwagon while there is room. 

Chicago fans showed today that once the team is good again, the bandwagon fills up quickly, so get your seat soon.  Getting that seat Thursday night and cheering Tyler, Roy, Danny, Darren, and the rest of the Pacers could be a great way to hop back on. 

Don't let today's game be the final high point of the 2010-2011 season.  How bout stealing a game in Indiana, yelling out a couple of "Boom Baby!" cheers, and giving Chicago fans something to cry about? 

In 49 states is is just basketball, but in Indiana it is life. Isn't that the way the saying goes? 

Make the Pacers' players feel that Indiana is living for them this week.