CHICAGO -- Pacers coach Frank Vogel wrote three motivational slogans on top of a whiteboard before Indiana's playoff game against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night. The last one read: "Expect their best. ... Beat their best."
This was far from the best for top-seeded Chicago, and Indiana still couldn't get it done -- especially after Darren Collison went down with an ankle injury.
The Pacers got pounded on the boards in a disappointing 96-90 loss in their second post-season game, shooting 41.6 per cent and failing to take advantage of Chicago's shaky start. Despite two halftime leads, they are two games from elimination with the first-round series shifting to Conseco Fieldhouse.
"Very pleased with the effort of our guys, and again, very disappointed that we didn't come out with the 'W'," Vogel said. "But our guys played their hearts out, can't ask for anything more than that."
Indiana could be without Collison, its starting point guard, for Game 3 on Thursday night -- a potentially crippling blow with Derrick Rose starring for the Bulls.
Collison went to the locker room late in the second quarter after he sprained his left ankle when he landed awkwardly near a row of photographers following a layup. X-rays were negative and he tested the ankle on the court during halftime, but was clearly in pain and never returned.
"Right now, it's just real sore and swelled up pretty bad," Collison said.
T.J. Ford gave the Pacers a lift in his first action of the series, banking in a 55-footer at the third-quarter buzzer to tie it at 67. A.J. Price finished with 13 points but Indiana clearly missed Collison during the tight final period.
"You always miss your leader, just from a cohesiveness standpoint and everything," Vogel said. "I thought those guys filled in admirably. So I mean they played well, but just from a cohesiveness standpoint, we missed him."
Collison had 17 points, nine assists and six rebounds in Indiana's frustrating 104-99 loss on Saturday, and his return could be the biggest key to Indiana bouncing back. He finished with eight points Monday night.
"I can't even jog on it, but I mean, we'll see," he said. "I'll be back Game 3, hopefully."
With Collison on the court and after he left, the Pacers had their chances, but they couldn't take advantage. Chicago went 6 for 24 from the field and committed six turnovers in the first quarter, but Indiana only managed an 18-17 lead heading into the second.
The Pacers were in control of Game 1 until Chicago closed with a 16-1 run to escape with the victory.
Of course, Indiana is going to have to find a way to stop Rose, or this series might not return to the rowdy United Center. The MVP front-runner followed up his 39-point effort in the opener with 36 points, eight rebounds and six assists in another vintage performance in his breakout season.
Rose and a whopping 57-33 rebounding deficit were just too much for the Pacers to overcome.