The Derrick Rose show will travel down I-65 on Thursday, where the Chicago Bulls will look to take a 3-0 series advantage over the Indiana Pacers at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Thursday's game will mark the first playoff game at Conseco Fieldhouse for Indiana since 2006, when they hosted the New Jersey Nets.
While it is technically a home game, it will look like anything but, I'm sure.
Not only is Chicago just up the road a couple of hours, but the Derrick Rose/Bulls bandwagon fans in the surrounding area will probably get their hands on a few tickets and fill the Fieldhouse with red.
Unfortunately for the city and the team, the Pacers drew the lowest attendance rate in the entire league this year. Making the Playoffs will undoubtedly increase it from its normal numbers, but it won't all be blue and gold come Thursday night.
Unlike Games 1 and 2, Thursday night's game will be seen on NBA TV, instead of ESPN and TNT. Still, it is yet to be determined how many fans will actually be rooting for this team, which is sad, considering how far they have come in recent years.
The last few days have been the brightest moments for this franchise since Ron Artest made his presence felt in Detroit.
Of course, he was sent packing a long time ago—as were Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, and the other players that took this franchise to an all-time low.
Through the draft and a select few trades, the Pacers are finally at a point where they can really start to focus on the future. They have a solid group of young talent, and a lot of flexibility heading into this off-season.
Before the first game began on Saturday in Chicago, the majority of the people I talked to were predicting a clean sweep of the Pacers. That was a combination of just how good the Bulls looked and how bad Indiana had been all season.
While a sweep is still in the deck of cards for the Bulls, they know they are going to have to scratch and claw their way into the second round.
It was easy to see why everyone's predictions were so similar.
The Bulls had the best record in the NBA, the MVP in Derrick Rose, possibly the coach of the year in Tom Thibodeau, and they had the first two games at home—where they've lost only five games all season long.
Indiana came out swinging, and refused to back down. After leading for 47 minutes in Game 1, they fell apart in the final minute, getting outscored 16-1 to end the game.
They went out to prove that it was no fluke in Game 2, as they led most of the way once again, before crumbling in the final few minutes.
The question everyone is asking now is whether the Pacers are actually this good, or if the Bulls are just playing this poorly.
Not to take the easy way out, but it really is a mixture of both ingredients. In the first two games, Indiana shot the ball extremely well and got off to fast starts.
They moved the ball very well on offense and played good help defense for the better part of 48 minutes. When it comes to crunch time, though, they have no idea what they are doing.
On the flip side, the Bulls haven't quite looked like the same team we saw all season.
Sure, Derrick Rose played like Derrick Rose in both—which is probably the only reason they won. His supporting cast, however, seems to have gone missing on more than one occasion during these games.
Carlos Boozer was in foul trouble early in the first game, and Luol Deng's biggest moment so far in this series seems to be the technical foul he got in Game 1. Joakim Noah has been rebounding like normal, but he has been having his problems on offense. The bench for Chicago really hasn't done much besides Korver's two big three-pointers.
The question facing Indiana now is of what they need to do in order to win one of these next two home games.
It appears as though Frank Vogel's game plan is working well, but they are still missing the secret ingredient—a closer. Most people thought they already had that in Danny Granger, but he hasn't had a great season this year, and many have begun to question his shot selection and overall leadership of this team.
If you ask me, I believe this team's future star is the guy that Vogel put in charge of guarding Rose: rookie Paul George.
Having a closer is huge, and all great teams in this league have one.
The lack of a guy like that has killed the Pacers in both of these games. The loss of starting PG Darren Collison will be tough to endure, but AJ Price will have time to prepare for the next game.
As long as he can focus his offense, all he needs to do is worry about helping off of Keith Bogans when Rose decides it's time to head to the basket. The team as a whole has been playing solidly so far, and I expect much of the same in Game 3.
I have heard many people's philosophy for the Pacers: hack-a-Noah.
Just looking at Joakim Noah, you can tell he isn't a great free throw shooter. He is there to rebound and block shots, and to clean up the loose balls. Instead of letting Derrick Rose get to the basket every time and get a lay up or get fouled (sometimes both), maybe they should just start giving Noah the Shaq treatment.
To me, it's better than the alternative of letting Rose score or kick out to a teammate for an open three pointer. It will be interesting to see if Vogel bites on that idea.
Basically, in order for Indiana to finally get one of these games, several things will have to happen:
Chicago must continue to play poorly at times, and Indiana must keep shooting over 50 percent from the floor. If they can get into a rhythm on offense, they could be in this game. Getting Rose and/or Boozer in foul trouble has proven to help as well.
Game 3 will not be an easy one for Indiana by any stretch of the imagination.
They seem to have a little momentum and confidence, though as much as you can have being down 0-2 in a series.
Hopefully we won't all be seeing red on Thursday at Conseco Fieldhouse.
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