Frank Vogel better give his team an earful after the Pacers squandered a golden opportunity to steal Game 1 in Chicago. The Bulls outscored Indiana by 13 points in the fourth quarter to earn a 104-99 victory in Game 1 of this first-round series. However, the overall No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference had its hands full with the pesky Pacers.
Indiana came out of the gates with tremendous energy and efficiency, taking an early 10-4 lead, and headed into halftime up by four. In the third quarter, Danny Granger came to life, scoring 13 points after scoring just six points in the first half. He finished with 24. At the end of the third quarter, Indiana led by eight and looked like the more composed team.
Then the fourth quarter started. Despite going down by as many as 12 points due to key baskets by Tyler Hansbrough and Darren Collison, the Bulls rallied back behind their leader Derrick Rose.
Rose finished with 39 points, six rebounds, six assists and three blocks, showing fans why many believe him to be the obvious choice for MVP. Trailing the entire game, the Bulls finally tied the score at 99 apiece before Rose found Kyle Korver wide open on the wing for a three-pointer, giving Chicago its first lead at 102-99.
But the game seemed over well before then. The Pacers let this game slip away, a game they had to have. If an underdog team goes on the road and establishes momentum and tempo like the Pacers did in Game 1, they have to close the deal.
Indiana could have stolen home-court advantage from the Bulls, and gone back to Conseco Fieldhouse tied 1-1 at the worst. Although winning the series would have still been a long shot for the Pacers, it is no almost impossible.
Indiana played nearly a perfect game for three-and-a-half quarters before the Bulls stormed back. Chicago was able to get to the foul line, hit key shots, and win the rebounding battle 49-34, an unacceptable margin given the tremendous size of Indiana's frontcourt.
The Pacers simply had to take care of business and seal the deal in Game 1. The Bulls now take the momentum into Game 2 at the United Center, and will likely head to Indiana with a 2-0 series lead.
The Pacers showed in Game 1 why they are the No. 8 seed and Chicago is No. 1. They just did not have what it takes to close out a game that they should have won. Make no mistake, Indiana is a solid team with good players at nearly every position. But until they get a superstar who plays smarter down the stretch than Granger, it will be a long few years in Indiana.
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