The Pacers lost a heartbreaking game 1 to the Bulls and Derrick Rose. While it wasn't the result they wanted, Indiana has a ton of things to look at positively and continue in game 2.
So what did they do right?
- Composure (three and a half quarters). This team did not look scared. Until late in the fourth, these guys simply played smart basketball. Ball movement, defensive switching and alertness were spectacular. The key to that is sustaining it for 48 minutes. If Indiana can do that, they can win.
- 24 second D (also lost at crunch time). The Pacers played solid defense for most of this one. Sure, the Bulls missed a few they should make, but the sheer commitment from the guys was awesome. I love how most of the team hits the glass hard. That will be key in keeping them in games. The Pacers must not allow easy putbacks on airballs and also keep the interior wall clogged as much as possible.
- Defense on off the ball screens. The Bulls like to get shooters like Korver going on movement off the ball. The Pacers looked prepared for it, they switched when necessary and stayed air tight most of the time. The three ball is really a momentum builder for the Bulls, and if they can't stop the easy looks, that will go a long way in stopping the Bulls momentum.
- Tyler Hansbrough. Can I say enough about this guy? Defense, jumpers, rebounds, toughness, teamwork, need I go on? I know Jon Berry was all lovey dovey about D. Rose, but I gotta say I love Hansbrough! He does what you need on both ends to win. Sure Boozer played Swiss cheese defense, but buckets are buckets. Tyler had a tremendous first showing in the playoffs and now he needs to build on what he's started.
- Getting Boozer in foul trouble. Carlos Boozer is usually a second option for the Bulls offense. Today, the Pacers took him out of the contest practically. He picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and it was mostly downhill from there. He finished with 12 points on 11 shots, but box score doesn't indicate the torching Hansbrough put on him! He was lit up. If Indiana can stop one important player (Deng, Rose, Noah or Boozer) per game, they can compete in each contest.
- Hitting tough shots (AJ Price, Hansbrough, Hibbert early). The Pacers have to make shots they shouldn't to win this series. They did that today, Price hit tough jumpers (even had a four point play opportunity, missed the FT though), Hansbrough hit contested J's also and Hibbert made nice post moves in the first quarter mostly. If Hibbert can be a factor on offense for a larger part of the game, that would be huge for the Pacers. They have to knock some tough shots down, that's for sure!
- Confident, strong coaching. Interim coach Frank Vogel sounds great. I love his demeanor (excluding that technical late in the first half), the confidence he instills in his huddles (when he said the Pacers are a better rebounding team than CHI) and how he's got his team together for game 1. Kudos to him and hopefully he can get his club to continue on.
- Bench Enthusiasm. The bench was into this game. After big plays they were up, they also stood when a big call went their way and they had positive energy. A teams bench is crucial to keeping a team's head up, so this has to be the norm for the Pacers.