Paul George is an NBA Superstar and if you disagree I recommend turning on a game. The man has become a two-way monster, bringing a diverse offensive game and a devastating defensive presence to this Pacers squad. In a team leading 39 minutes on the floor, George scored a team high 21 points on 6-19 shooting (2-5 from three), going 7-7 from the charity stripe. He also chipped in six boards, three assists and managed to stay out of foul trouble the entire game despite taking on the most game’s most difficult cover for the second half. George absolutely hounded Rose for parts of the third and all the the final quarter when Rose was allowed off the bench (more on this later). George held Rose to just 1-5 shooting from the field and also initiated several costly turnovers down the stretch. PG24 is worth every dime of that massive extension he received from the Pacers, and the scary thing for Bulls fans is he is likely to only get better. George still leaves a lot to be desired as a ball handler, an area of his game he clearly has been working on.
Roy Hibbert protects the rim better than anyone in the league. The only comparable defensive force I can think of is maybe this guy, and even that would be considered a stretch. Hibbert, who only scored 8 points shooting 3-8 from the field, made his impact felt on the other side of the ball. The behemoth from Georgetown rejected five shots tonight, literally an average night so far for Hibbert in this young season. But more than just the blocks, Hibbert’s presence fundamentally changed the Bulls offensive plan Wednesday night. Any time a Bull drove into the paint, he had to think twice about attempting a layup, as Hibbert was forcing difficult adjustments on all the shots he didn’t manage to swat. Hibbert is the clear favorite for DPOY so far. With the big man on the floor, the Pacers allow a microscopic 76.6 points/100 possessions. Ya I know it’s a small sample size, but Jesus Christ that is incredible. The Pacers as a whole lead the league in points per 100 possessions, a stat also known as defensive rating, with a frightening 86.3 (By the way, all the stats from this article are from the AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME NBA stats page that allows anyone to access a lot of that data that is collected by the SportsVU cameras that the league had installed in every NBA arena before this season. I STRONGLY encourage everyone to spend some time playing around over at stats.nba.com).
I must say that Tom Thibodeau made some strange lineup choices throughout this game. Kirk Hinrich played 11 minutes in the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter, for those new to the game, is only 12 minutes, meaning Hinrich was left on the floor for the entirety of the quarter until Thibs threw in the white flag with a little more than a minute left to play. Bulls fans, this may be hard to accept, but Captain Kirk, the guy who made those slightly better than mediocre teams in the mid-aughts to fun to watch, is completely washed up and useless as a basketball player. Watching Kirk bring the ball up past half court reminds me of me bringing the ball up past half court. For those unfamiliar with my basketball talent, I don’t have any. Hinrich is so slow he is pretty much unable to create any type of offense. I know that Thibs likes to “reward” the second unit when they keep them in the game during the end of the third, but last night was absurd. Rose didn’t enter the game until the halfway mark of the fourth, and he never got on the floor with both Deng and Butler. Instead, Rose and Hinrich took turns handling the ball which was a complete disaster. In 34 minutes of shared court time this season (yes, I acknowledge it’s a small sample), the Rose-Hinrich combination is averaging an abysmal 80.5 points/100 possessions while surrendering 118.2. And the extra ball handler on the floor is not opening things up for their teammates. Nearly a quarter of the possessions with Kirk and Rose playing together have ended in a turnover.
The “How to Completely Fuck With DRose” handbook exists and is slowly getting passed around to every team in the league. Fortunately for Bulls fans only a few teams have the personnel capable of pulling it off, but two of those teams are the Heat and the Pacers, Eastern Conference foes who will be dangerous in May. Rose, who can understandably still play the Rust Card, was completely flummoxed by the size of Paul George and David West down the stretch in this game. After an exciting first quarter where Derrick scored a quick seven points while working against former teammate CJ Watson, Rose was completely held in check by the cagey George in the second half. Although the nearly 10 minutes of game time (and however many minutes of reality time) Rose spent on the bench during the end of the third and the first half of the fourth could have contributed to Rose’s poor play, the numbers are frightening nonetheless. Rose shot 1-6 (0-2 3pt) and turned the ball over three times. Yeeeeeesh.
The truth about this game is that, until the last six or seven minutes, the Bulls were very much in the mix. While the final score suggests an all out romping of the boys in red that was not the case. A strong second quarter actually gave the Bulls a five point lead heading into the half. In the quarter, Taj Gibson, arguably the guy who’s played the best for Chicago in this young season, wasted no time in the second quarter attacking Luis Scola and Ian Mahimi. Lance Stephenson, left on to run the second unit, missed somewhere between seven and 300 consecutive shots in the second quarter, most of which were wild and out of control attempts. Luol Deng, who had a great game compared to some of his earlier efforts this season, attacked Stephenson early and often in the post. The second unit for Chicago also kept things close for the first half of the fourth quarter, theoretically providing a perfect opportunity for the rested Rose to pull away in the game’s waning minutes.