What happens when one defensive-minded team missing their best player and another key offensive threat faces another defensive-minded team missing their best player? Well, you get the hideous display of "basketball" that was played by the Bulls and Pacers at the United Center on Tuesday night. And in the end, too much Paul George, more bad fourth quarter offense and a dubious no-call in the waning moments led to another close loss for the Bulls.
After snoozing through much of the game, the Bulls actually looked like they were going to take control in the fourth quarter when Nate Robinson injected some much-needed energy into the team and the crowd. Robinson scored 13 points in about a nine-minute stretch spanning from late in the third to midway through the fourth, turning a nine-point Bulls deficit into a four-point lead.
But much like the Rockets loss from a couple of weeks ago, Robinson took things too far, launching several ill-advised shots and committing several costly turnovers down the stretch. Meanwhile, George made play after play for the Pacers, whether it was ridiculous fadeaways or stealing Luol Deng's lunch money or setting up teammates for buckets. George scored 11 points in the fourth quarter (34 points overall) and helped the Pacers wrest the lead back from the Bulls with just over two minutes left
After the Pacers and Bulls traded and-1's with bricked free throws, Chicago had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final minute. Deng freed himself on a nice back cut, but was stonewalled by Roy Hibbert at the basket. Hibbert did go mostly straight up, but there appeared to be an awful lot of contact on the play with no foul called. Tom Thibodeau blew a gasket on the sideline, and I have no idea how he didn't get T'd up, but maybe the official felt bad for not calling the foul?
But as much as I'd like to gripe about the no-call, it's hard to whine too much about the officials when your offense is absolutely terrible and can't reach 80 points. It turns out that a bunch of people were rather prophetic about this game, although I guess it was easy to see coming:
Congratulations to the 800 people who predicted this game would be a race to 80. Pacers 80, Bulls 76. Bulls shot better. Bulls shot 38%.— Ricky O'Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) December 5, 2012
The Bulls' offense truly was an abomination, as they shot 38.4 percent and turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 23 Pacers points. But that's what will happen when you face a good defensive team with Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli as your starting guards. Hinrich was mostly dreadful yet again (five points, 2-of-7 shooting), which is of course nothing new, while Belinelli did very little in a starting role (six points, 2-of-5 shooting, 2-of-4 free throws). Marco showed a few brief glimpses of his fabled ability to put the ball on the floor, but it seemed like most of his night was spent standing around the three-point line doing nothing. With nobody to drive and kick, that lack of movement simply isn't going to cut it.
Stacey King correctly pointed out on numerous occasions the lack of spacing on offense, and that led to a bunch of the forced shots and sloppy turnovers. Credit certainly must be given to the Pacers for their typical strong defensive effort, but this was especially unwatchable offense from the Bulls. But that's the way it often is these days.
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