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Pacers Look For Answers In Crunch Time

by Conrad Brunner || Caught in the Web Archive

April 19, 2011

( Getty Images)

They have led or been tied for 77 of the 96 minutes in the first two games of this series. They have outshot the Bulls (44 percent to 41 percent), have more assists (43-33) and fewer turnovers (30-37).

And yet the Pacers home with nothing to show for their efforts aside from a frustrating 0-2 deficit.

As they return to their Conseco Fieldhouse homecourt for Games 3 and 4 Thursday and Saturday, the Pacers must find a way to execute with the game on the line.

"We just have to be better down the stretch," said Mike Dunleavy. "That's two games in a row. It comes down to focus and concentration and executing. Obviously we don't have a Derrick Rose to put the ball in somebody's hands and just let them win it. All five guys have got to be in line, we've got to make free throws and we've got to execute and make our shots."

While Rose has taken over the big moments, scoring 17 points in the final five minutes of the first two games, the Pacers are searching for their crunch-time savior. Leading scorer Danny Granger has been blanketed by the Chicago defense and has not made a field goal in the final five minutes.

"One thing about the Bulls, they are really focused about taking me out of my game," Granger said. "They face-guard a lot. A lot of times when I catch the ball I have two guys in my face. That is one of the good things about their defense. They make it hard for you to get to the rim. You really have to take what they give you."

The problem is, the Bulls have giveth only in the first three quarters; in the fourth, they have taketh away.

Indiana has outscored Chicago 146-138 in the first three quarters, shooting 47 percent to the Bulls' 38 percent. In the fourth quarter, the Bulls have outscored the Pacers 62-43, shooting 54 percent to Indiana's 36 percent.

So is the bigger problem Chicago's defense or something else?

"I think it's something else," said A.J. Price, "because we've had success scoring on them throughout the game so it's not like they just turn it up another level come crunch time and we can't score. It's just us not executing.

"That's something we're going to have to look at on film to see down the clutch why we're not scoring with the same efficiency that we've been scoring the first three quarters."

Despite the frustrating nature of those first two losses, the Pacers have been the aggressors, generally outplaying the Bulls, so they come home with the confidence that they have the ability to beat the NBA's top team. The challenge is to find a way to make it happen.

"We can't really hold our heads low," said Paul George. "We know we're going home. We've really got to bring it. This is a chance where we have the advantage playing at home and we've really got to take advantage of it. If we can bring the same intensity at our house, maybe the game and the ball will roll our way at home."