With the Pacers struggling of late, I felt relatively good about the Bulls going into Bankers Life Fieldhouse and at least giving them a really good fight on Friday night. Well, we got one half of good fight before the Pacers blew the doors off the Bulls early in the third quarter en route to a 91-79 victory.
After Carlos Boozer gave the Bulls a one-point lead at the very start of the third quarter, the Pacers went on a 19-0 run to go up 18. The run was buoyed by a lot of Lance Stephenson and Paul George, and Stephenson capped off the run with a bucket and a taunting technical.
The technical seemed to wake the Bulls up out of their coma, and they slowly chipped away at the 18-point deficit. The Bulls got to within eight early in the fourth quarter before the offense went into the tank. After a D.J. Augustin layup with 8:18 left, the Bulls didn't make a single field goal until a Jimmy Butler three with 1:15 left. In between those baskets, the Pacers went up by 16 to put the game away. The only Bulls points during that stretch were two Augustin free throws.
Luis Scola led the Pacers with 19 points, doing what he always seems to do against the Bulls. George's shooting struggles continued (3-of-13), but he still notched a triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Stephenson added 15 points as the entire Pacers starting lineup scored in double figures.
Augustin and Butler both had 17 points to lead the Bulls, who shot a dreadful 36.4 percent overall and 31.3 percent in the fourth quarter. Joakim Noah had 12 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, but he shot just 5-of-15. Boozer had 10 points and got his first fourth-quarter minutes since Feb. 19 due to Taj Gibson's foul trouble, but he responded by going 0-of-4 in the final frame.
The game was a slug fest right at the outset, with both squads looking to set the tone in the paint. Noah and Boozer combined for 11 shots in the first quarter, while Roy Hibbert and David West had 10. Neither team was all that effective with their strategy, but the Bulls were able to open up a four-point lead by the end of the frame.
The second quarter, or at least most of it, belonged to Scola and the Pacers' bench. Scola killed the Bulls with mid-range jumpers, scoring 12 points in the quarter. Evan Turner also did some nice things, especially as a distributor, racking up four points and six assists in the frame. Even the rarely used Chris Copeland did stuff.
With the Bulls' offense in a funk (what's new?), it looked like the Pacers may pull away, as they went up 42-35 with just under four minutes to go in the half. But with the Pacers' starters back in at the end of the half, the Bulls got themselves back into it on the back of Augustin and some nifty Noah passes.
Then that 19-0 run happened, and the Bulls just didn't have enough offense to make a serious charge. I'm sure plenty of people will be calling for Jimmer, and while it really wouldn't hurt to throw him out there in a game like this one, it seems painfully clear right now he won't get any meaningful minutes. Hell, even Tony Snell only got three minutes tonight as Butler played another 45 and Mike Dunleavy 38.
Luckily, the Bulls have a cupcake matchup against the Sixers tomorrow before welcoming the Pacers back to the United Center on Monday night.