After losing in the final second against the Nuggets on Wednesday, the Bulls lost another one in heartbreaking fashion to the Pacers on Friday night. In a game that had some big swings both ways, Darren Collison hit the game-winning jumper with 18.5 seconds left to hand the Bulls a 107-105 defeat.
The Bulls had three chances on their final possession, but Zach LaVine missed a fadeaway long 2, Justin Holiday missed a 3-pointer off the rebound and Antonio Blakeney couldn’t get off a good look in between a gaggle of bodies, with Myles Turner picking up his sixth block of the night as time expired.
Blakeney had just played the hero seconds before with an incredible 4-point play to tie the game at 105-105. It was yet another huge night for the spark plug off the bench, as he poured in a team-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 3-of-5 from 3.
Blakeney has been on an absolute tear shooting the ball all season. He has made 50 percent of his shots in every game except the opener against the Sixers, and it’s not like he’s taking easy shots. He hit a wide variety of difficult jumpers in this game, but it just wasn’t quite enough. And, funny side note, Blakeney only has four assists on the season. The man is there to get buckets.
Holiday also had a nice game before missing the potential game-winner. He had 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting and hit five triples for the second game in a row. He’s up over 40 percent from deep on the season on high volume, and I’m just waiting for the Bulls to get a second-round pick (or two?!) for him.
LaVine had his worst shooting game of the season by going 7-of-21 from the field, though he did keep his 20-point streak alive by getting to 20 right on the dot. He did have one stretch where he made four shots in a row in the fourth quarter as the Bulls turned a seven-point deficit heading into the final frame into a seven-point lead, but the offense managed only six points in the last 6:54 after a LaVine triple, with four of those coming on Blakeney’s 4-point play.
Those fourth-quarter swings were just a few of the big runs in this game. The Bulls actually got off to a terrific start, playing arguably their best quarter of basketball this season in a 37-22 first quarter. Wendell Carter Jr. picked up right where he left off last game with nine quick points, but foul trouble took him out early and marred him all night, though he still wound up with a stellar line of 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists in 24 minutes. Carter’s passing from the post was especially exquisite as the Bulls ran their offense through him at different points.
But while Carter went out early, Cristiano Felicio provided some nice hustle minutes off the bench as the Bulls as a team simply outhustled the Pacers throughout the first quarter. The Pacers seemed to be stuck in the mud, with star Victor Oladipo doing very little to open the game.
The Bulls went up by as many as 18 points, but then Oladipo woke up and the Pacers stormed back. They were helped by a Bulls offense that went to hell in the second quarter. After not turning the ball over in the first quarter, the Bulls started throwing the ball all over the place in the second, with Jabari Parker a multiple offender with wild, spinning drives that led to basically nothing but bad things. The Pacers took advantage of the turnovers and got a bunch of easy baskets going the other way.
The Pacers came all the way back and actually took a 60-58 lead into halftime, and it looked like they may run away from the Bulls in the third quarter. But the Pacers’ poor 3-point shooting (7-of-26) and timely buckets from Blakeney and Holiday helped keep the game within reach heading into that fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, the Bulls just couldn’t pull it out. Oladipo made a ton of plays out of pick-and-roll and wound up with a big stat line of 25 points, 14 rebounds and five assists. Turner also had a terrific game with those aforementioned six blocks, plus 18 points and a few key mid-range buckets down the stretch.
The Bulls will be right back at it Saturday against the Rockets, who finally got back in the win column in Brooklyn on Friday. James Harden is expected to make his return from a hamstring injury.