INDIANAPOLIS — The talk for the next two days in Chicago about the Bulls will be about how they finally buckled and fumbled a game away to the Pacers.
The Bulls were forced to mount yet another fourth quarter comeback against the Pacers in Game 4 and it was finally too much to handle. But as the team returns to Chicago with a chance to close out the Pacers on Tuesday, the Bulls are blaming only themselves and not making any excuses about their play as of late.
“This is the NBA Playoffs everyone is competing hard,” said Joakim Noah. Noah had 21 points in the Game 4 loss which topped all scorers on the Bulls. “We [have to] play the way the way we play in the fourth quarter for 48 minutes.”
Kyle Korver had more of the same to say in the locker room.
You’ve got to play 48 minutes of you want to close out a series and [the Bulls] gotta learn you have to keep the intensity.
-Scottie Pippen on how the Bulls played in Game 4
“We’ve been a great fourth quarter team all year long especially in this series. We just gotta play better the first three quarters.” He also pointed to the glaring problem Chicago is having out of the gate. “We have good intentions the way we start, we’re just not playing our smartest basketball right now. We didn’t move the ball the way we should, we’re not moving fast enough.”
Derrick Rose spraining his ankle was a big reason the Bulls faltered against the Pacers but even he didn’t make excuse.
“No excuses. This is the playoffs. I’ve sprained my ankle a bunch of times before.”
There is no crying about poor officiating or blaming the other guy. The Bulls are talking full blame as a unit for their lack of productivity for a majority of this series.
But still, the Pacers took full advantage of a weakness they exposed this series: the over reliance on Derrick Rose. This then raises concern about what will happen when a more elite team such as Boston or Miami utilizes this weakness.
The other issue with Rose leaving was the disappearance of the intensity level on the court. As soon as Rose started limping off the court, the air was punched out of the Bulls and that was a fatal mistake.
Scottie Pippen saw this and had some words of constructive criticism for the young squad that echoed the running theme of this series. “You gotta play 48 minutes if you want to close out a series and they’re going to learn that you gotta keep the intensity up.”
But despite the self-criticism, the Bulls are as happy as they can be about the chance to close out the Pacers in front of their fans.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to go back home and play our game,” said Noah after having to look at a stat sheet to see how the Pacers played differently this game as opposed to the rest; a statement within itself. “We get a lot of love in Chicago and there is still a lot of love and excitement about the Bulls back home.”