It felt as if I was watching the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals all over again. The intensity, the physicality, the atmosphere and of course, the end result.
The Pacers blew a lead they held for all of the first 47 minutes of the game. Derrick Rose hit a jumper with a minute and a half left. At the 48-second mark, Kyle Korver hit the three-point basket which would seal the deal.
Luol Deng and Joakim Noah's unmatched enthusiasm blew the roof off the United Center, which had been rather quiet for most of the afternoon. From there, Rose led a comeback one might expect an MVP recipient to lead as the Bulls extinguished the fire that Indiana brought to Chicago.
Larry Bird almost smiled once. His youth movement, which has been highly criticized in the last few years by NBA fans, is finally doing what he wants it to. And one of the things that really has to make him feel good is that this team clearly isn't satisfied by making the playoffs. They're not satisfied taking a game or two from the team with the best record in the Association either. They believe they can win.
Danny Granger scored 24 points in 40 minutes for the Pacers, but what I found even more impressive was the play of two of Indiana's youngest players. Tyler Hansbrough took full advantage of Carlos Boozer's foul trouble, playing aggressively under the basket. Meanwhile, Darren Collison did his part to keep up with Rose and put up 17 points of his own.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, Rose did his hometown proud and scored 39 points despite his 0-for-9 mark from three-point land. He used his speed and mobility to make remarkable drives to the lane. He found holes in the tightest of spots. The Chicago fans chanted "M-V-P, M-V-P" with every free throw that left his hands.
Game One of the NBA Playoffs was everything David Stern could have hoped for. With the Pacers and the Bulls putting on such a show, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the series goes and whether or not these two teams can reignite the Indiana-Illinois border war that we saw in 13 years ago.
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