April 26, 2011
Oh, confidence. We want our favorite teams to have it, we swear, and we tell ourselves that we'd love for the coaches and players that make up these teams to be as swimming in appalling optimism as we are.
Then they actually speak out, and we freak out. Keep that in-house! No bulletin board material!
To start, that's the mindset you have to boast in order to keep your wits about you as you attempt to become the first NBA team in playoff history to return from an 0-3 deficit and win the series. Secondly, as has been proven over the course of five tough playoff and regular-season games between Indiana and Chicago since Vogel took over as interim coach, Indiana has at the very least been Chicago's equal. Though the Bulls are up 3-1 in the series and 3-2 counting a loss in Indiana five weeks ago, each of the games were nail-bitingly close.
Meanwhile, NBA.com's Steve Aschburner is wondering just what it will take to force Larry Bird and the Pacers organization to drop the interim tag from Vogel's name:
Inspire the troops? Check. The Pacers seem to love playing for Vogel. They exhaled when his positive preachings alleviated the more oppressive mood set by former coach Jim O'Brien, who had endured the roster makeover. That made them willing to go along as Vogel has demanded more this spring.
Perform well under pressure? Check. Locked into what might have been considered the least competitive first-round series, the Pacers have played well enough to be tied 2-2 or lead 3-1 rather than trail 1-3 heading into the game Tuesday night at United Center. They have led in the fourth quarter in each game. Their defense has limited the Bulls to 39.8 percent field-goal shooting. After being outrebounded by a combined 39 in Games 1 and 2, the Pacers nearly matched Chicago's work on the boards at Conseco Fieldhouse (88-87).
Bird is obviously doing his due diligence, and there's no point for a small market team to be paying a full-time head coach over the course of a lockout, but Vogel has more than earned a head coaching gig after Indiana's 20-18 finish to the season, and for his role in the closest 3-1 series we can remember.
Meanwhile, at Bulls practice, star guard Derrick Rose(notes) is out of his flip-flops and into his sneakers as he readies himself to take to Game 5 after badly spraining his ankle on Saturday. The MVP candidate is listed as questionable for Tuesday night's game, but all indications have Rose starting and playing his usual minutes. His usual game, which hasn't shown up with any consistency since the playoffs started, might have to wait until the Bulls take on a different opponent.
There's no way to transition from the world of promotions and ankle sprains and candid character diagnosis to something like this, but Tyler Hansbrough(notes) (via Indy Cornrows) will be working through distraction as he starts for the Pacers in Game 5. The second-year forward is well aware of the failing levees in his hometown of Poplar Bluff, Mo., as heavy rains have forced massive evacuations due to the resulting floods.
We'll be at Game 5 Tuesday night, live-tweeting and posting a column at Ball Don't Lie in the hours following the contest. Possibly before the Blackhawk game ends. We're not sure.