By Conrad Brunner, Pacers.com
Once again, the Pacers outplayed the Bulls for most of the game. Once again, the Pacers took their lead deep into the fourth quarter.
And once again, they were undone by the sheer brilliance of Derrick Rose.
Chicago's otherworldly point guard scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter as the Bulls took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven first-round NBA Playoff series Monday with a 96-90 victory over the determined but ultimately frustrated Pacers.
"It is disappointing. I feel like it is the sequel to the Derrick Rose show," said Pacers forward Danny Granger. "It really just happened all over again. We held them to 38 percent shooting. That is usually a winning stat. We turned them over 21 times, that is usually a winning stat. The difference was offensive rebounding which was created a lot by Derrick Rose getting in the lane and our free throw attempts."
Rose scored nine in an 11-5 run that put the Bulls up 87-83, and then -- in another reprise from Game 1 -- Kyle Korver hit the dagger 3-pointer from the corner to give Chicago a 90-85 lead with 1:04 remaining.
Rose's only mistake down the stretch was a foul against A.J. Price on a 3-point attempt. Indiana's second-year point guard hit all three free throws with 23.4 seconds left to cut the deficit to two.
Luol Deng made a pair from the line with 17.5 seconds left to make it a two-possession game, Mike Dunleavy followed with a missed 3-pointer and that was that.
"I know it sounds redundant, but we have to stop Derrick Rose," said Granger. "It's the same thing as the other day. He had 36 points and had 39 the other night. A lot of the other guys on their team shot below 50 percent.
"They really didn't have those impressive numbers and it's been Derrick. He comes down with the ball in his hand every possession. He puts so much pressure on the defense constantly. We just have to limit some of his productivity."
Granger led the Pacers with 19 points, while Price scored 13. Indiana had advantages of 43-22 in bench points and 26-14 in turnover points and held Chicago to 39 percent shooting but could not overcome Rose.
Rose added eight rebounds and six assists, scoring 12 of his 36 from the line. Carlos Boozer had 17 points and 16 rebounds and Luol Deng 14 for the Bulls.
"(Rose) made big play after big play," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "He kept attacking the basket. They put a lot of pressure on him. He made the right play. He made the right decisions. He got to the line a lot again."
With strong production from the bench, the Pacers led deep into the fourth quarter once again, up 78-76 on Brandon Rush's reverse layup with 5:43 remaining. They would make just two baskets the rest of the way.
Rose, meanwhile, returned from a brief rest and did his thing, driving for a three-point play to put the Bulls ahead for good.
The series now shifts to Indianapolis for Games 3 and 4, beginning Thursday at 7 p.m. (Fox Sports Indiana, NBA TV, WIBC 93 FM) in Conseco Fieldhouse. Tickets are still available for both games.
"We're standing toe-to-toe with this team," said Pacers interim coach Frank Vogel. "I'm proud of our guys, take this back to Indy and see what happens. "
The Pacers lost starting point guard Darren Collison to a sprained left ankle late in the first half when he fell hard to the floor after making a layup and got tangled with the photographers.
He did not return.
The Pacers faltered in the immediate aftermath of Collison's injury. Up 45-36 after Collison's final bucket with 2:32 left in the half, they were outscored 23-7 over the next eight minutes as the Bulls surged to a 59-52 lead midway through the third period.
Asked how concerned he was about Collison's injury, Vogel said, "Very. He's a big part of what we do."
With Granger heating up to score nine in the period, the Pacers chipped away until T.J. Ford's memorable first bucket of the series, a 65-foot 3-point-heave from well beyond midcourt that beat the third quarter buzzer and tied the game at 67-all.
But the Bulls outscored the Pacers in the fourth quarter 29-23, bringing the two-game total to 62-43.
"We have to improve our execution offensively as well as defensively down the stretch," said Granger. "We give up the most points in the fourth quarter. We did that two games in a row. Even when we won the regular season game in Indy, we gave up a lot of points in the fourth quarter. Our defensive execution breaks down in the 4th quarter.”
And so they will try again Thursday night, hoping to write a new ending with a surprise twist for the Derrick Rose show.