The Bulls were without Derrick Rose, who was a late scratch due to hamstring tendinitis, but maybe it's time to stop treating the backup PG spot like a horrible weakness when Aaron Brooks is playing this well. Brooks finished with a team-high 29 points as he and point-Jimmy Butler (28 of his own) dominated the ball and the stretch of the game as the Bulls pulled out a 102-100 overtime win over Indiana.
The game started out, and had a few stretches intermittently, of awful hoops. The Bulls offensive game plan seemed to be playing for a Jimmy Butler or Pau Gasol turnaround fadeaway. Meanwhile the Pacers were hiding their short bad defenders on Nikola Mirotic and Niko couldn't get that treatment, somewhat due to bad play design but also Niko's awful play at the moment.
Aaron Brooks hit several threes (Hinrich chipped in one bomb too, and had a couple good defensive plays) which was enough to keep the Bulls offense not only competent but had them surging to a 10 point lead at halftime. The Pacers only shot 37% for the half and were 2-8 from three. It was an ugly game but effective.
Bobby Portis chipped in huge in the first half, with 10 points in his 9 minutes. It was simple but effective, so much so it still is a marvel he was left until the Bulls could grab him that late in the first round. He ran the floor to get early post position and showed solid finishing. And he was great on the offensive glass. He was alongside Mirotic and McDermott for the opening of that quarter and drew the assignment against fellow rookie Myles Turner, but Portis held his own, and the lineup did too (they were +3). The Pacers bench is no great shakes, so even if they're gonna, say, attack Doug McDermott on defense, it was with Chase Budinger. At halftime the Bulls bench scored 34 of the team's 50 points.
The Bulls lead swelled to 14 early in the 3rd quarter but the Pacers went on a 17-4 run to re-take the lead. Even bringing in Portis couldn't stop the bleeding (though he finished with 16 points and 7 boards in 26 minutes, a great game by the rookie), where now the Bulls themselves were giving up way too many offensive boards. It could've been worse for the Bulls as both Paul George and Monta Ellis were hideous in that quarter, going a combined 1-14 and a couple of turnovers. But the Bulls themselves just couldn't score, though Jimmy Butler did some hero ball (him and George had tunnel-vision against eachother, it seemed) to end the quarter to give the Bulls a slight lead entering the 4th.
The fourth saw yet another big Pacers run to give them a 7 point lead that hovered around that mark from near the midway point until the final few minutes. The Aaron Brooks experience was showing diminishing returns and way too many turnovers, with some key offensive rebounds and some more Jimmy Butler all that even had the Bulls generating any offense.
And then those final couple minutes were pretty much entirely Jimmy Butler. They were giving him the ball every time and he was getting production, with 9 points in that final quarter, including a big 3 to tie the game with 35 seconds left and another equalizer on their next possession on a very nice crossover of George and drive to the rim. The Pacers worked the clock to get the final shot, but great containment of George by Butler and Hinrich left only a desperation heave by Ellis.
In Overtime, the Bulls shot out with a 7-0 run. One key was that the Pacers were forced to keep Turner in the game (Ian Mahinmi exited in the second half due to injury) and he was worked inside on both ends. The next few possessions weren't nearly as smooth but the Pacers couldn't get any closer than 3, until a Monta Ellis make from the corner (after his first attempt missed and a great OREB+pass by Solomon Hill) with his heels on the line (literally...he must've been on his toes the whole time I guess?) tied it with only a few seconds remaining.
[Can't mention the offensive rebounds enough. The Bulls were good here, over 31% offensive rebound rate. Gibson had 6 on his own and Portis had 3, plus the team generated a few loose ball fouls by crashing the glass. But on defense they allowed the Pacers to get 40% of their available offensive boards, which is a catastrophe.]
Less than 4 seconds remained, but it left enough time for this:
That's right, the Gasol-Butler lob that has worked in approximately 17 straight games was unleashed in a deciding possession. Butler was able to just tap it in, beating Paul George by inches. And then when Indiana tried to return the favor with their own lob play to George, Jimmy was just a bit better again, just like how his big block on George got the Bulls a win the last time the Pacers came to the United Center.
George finished with a mere 19 on 7-20 shots, and Ellis was an abominable 4-19.
The Bulls have now completed a very impressive stretch, going 3-1 over 6 nights and the 1 loss being a close giveaway late. They were all against good teams and without Joakim Noah, and this latest one without both Noah and Derrick Rose. The schedule does not let up for a while (I guess that's the upshot of fewer back-to-backs, fewer multi-day rests), and the Bulls will have to win about forty games in a row before I trust that they're actually a very good team, but these are some nice wins to bank away.