Indiana Pacers on Brink of Elimination in Game 4 vs. Chicago Bulls

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So here they are.

After Thursday’s 88-84 loss in Game 3 of the Indiana Pacers’ first-round NBA playoff matchup with the Chicago Bulls, the eighth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference now stands somewhere it hasn’t reached this late in the season since 2006: on the brink of elimination.

Game 4 tips off at 2:30 p.m. ET today at Conseco Fieldhouse, and the top-seeded Bulls have a chance to put away a Pacers team that has given them fits throughout the series but hasn’t been able to finish.

By Drew Allen

Seriously, does this series feel like one team leads 3-0? I didn’t think so either.

For that, you have to tip your hat to the Pacers. A team that secured the East’s final playoff spot with a 37-45 record, a team that changed coaches and philosophies in the middle of the season, a team that had lost three of four regular-season meetings with Chicago — that team has been there at the end of each of these three games.

But the Bulls have come out on top each time. Why? They have exactly what the Pacers lack: a closer. A Derrick Rose.

On a night when Rose had gotten smothered by feisty Indiana defenders Paul George and Dahntay Jones, a night when he could manage just 3-of-17 shooting, the Bulls guard again showed why he will be this year’s NBA MVP. With the game tied at 84-84 in the final seconds, Rose tore through the Pacers’ defense into the lane and dropped a layup over multiple defenders to secure a two-point lead.

The Pacers’ response? A desperation jack-up by Danny Granger when the Pacers forward faced a suffocating perimeter defensive effort. The Indiana possession before that one? A bad miss on a contested layup by Darren Collison.

I’m not trying to knock the Pacers. They have played their hearts out in this series and have made it far more competitive than most anyone thought it would be. What’s more is that the national media (and the city of Indianapolis) have caught on to the kind of progress Indiana is making by its being in the playoffs.

The Pacers just don’t have their Derrick Rose, and that’s why their season is in danger of ending in a first-round sweep today despite how well they’ve actually played Chicago.

It’ll be interesting to see how Indiana comes out mentally today. Will the Pacers come out firing on all cylinders and play their best game of the series with their season hanging in the balance, or will they be too drained emotionally after three straight losses when they knew they played their best?

If the Pacers’ 2010-11 journey indeed ends today, anyone who associates himself or herself with this franchise can hold his or her head high. I didn’t feel that way after last season; Indiana seemed lost and devoid of much hope of escaping the dreaded “late lottery” cycle. This year, though, the team can take something into the offseason. It has playoff experience. It knows what adjustments — strategic and personnel-wise — it needs to make to start winning in the postseason. It can more effectively reconnect with its city and fan base.

No matter the outcome of today’s game, the Pacers will have advanced.

Comments

  1. I was rooting for the Bulls to make a comeback. If they did, it would have probably been the most competitive sweep in the playoffs in the last 20 years. The Pacers are putting up a good fight, so I guess it will be the most competitive 5-game series in the last 20 years.

    http://theresastatforthat.blogspot.com/2011/04/playoff-sweeps-some-are-worse-than.html

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