After an absolutely dreadful performance against the Magic, the Bulls came out and put forth a spirited effort against a red-hot Pacers team in one of the wildest/fun games of the season. When the dust cleared, the Pacers came away with a 119-116 victory thanks to a Victor Oladipo banked 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining (after possibly a missed over-and-back?):
Oladipo drills the winner in OT pic.twitter.com/REFEsD8cuS— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 5, 2019
In a perfect summation of this insane game, Zach LaVine hit a wild 3-pointer on the other end, but he got it off late and was also out of bounds (I think):
It was LaVine who sent the game to overtime with a high degree of difficulty triple at the end of regulation:
This was LaVine’s second triple in the final minute, and these both came after a tough Kris Dunn long ball moments before. The Bulls hit three 3-pointers in the final 27 seconds after it seemed like the Pacers had sewn the game up on a Domantas Sabonis dunk that made it a six-point game. A Bojan Bogdanovic missed free throw opened the door for LaVine’s game-tying triple.
The ridiculous shotmaking only continued in overtime. Dunn caught another body by putting Myles Turner on a poster:
Then, Oladipo and Myles Turner hit back-to-back triples after the Pacers struggled to shoot from long-range all game. But Turner’s trey was answered by a miracle Lauri Markkanen 3-pointer as both teams went back and forth with insane shots. Then came Oladipo’s game-winner and LaVine’s late bomb that didn’t count to cap it all off.
Oladipo led all scorers with 36 points on 14-of-28 shooting (4-of-13 from 3), but the Bulls’ starters outplayed the Pacers’ starters for most of the game. LaVine got the Bulls off to a scorching start with 17 points in the first quarter to earn a 30-18 lead after one quarter, and while the young guard was quiet in the middle quarters thanks to some foul trouble, he exploded late to finish with a team-high 31 points on 12-of-21 shooting overall and 5-of-9 from 3.
The Bulls also got terrific performances from the other three key guys of the young core. Dunn played one of his best overall games as a Bull with 16 points (6-of-9 shooting) and a career-high 17 assists to only two turnovers. He ran the offense well as the Bulls shot 51.6 percent from the field and 12-of-28 from 3. Turnovers (18) were still an overall problem, but they weren’t a Dunn problem.
Markkanen poured in 27 points on 12-of-20 shooting and 4-of-9 on 3-pointers. He scored inside and out and had a few nice finishes off the dribble. The big man’s off-the-dribble creativity is still a work in progress as he racked up six turnovers, but this was still a strong overall performance. Markkanen’s backcourt mate, Wendell Carter Jr., also had a stellar game with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block.
The fifth starter, rookie Chandler Hutchison in place of the traded Justin Holiday, only had four points on 2-of-8 shooting, but he played hard in his 26 minutes and was a team-best plus-12. Unfortunately, Hutch didn’t play in the fourth quarter or overtime as Jim Boylen went with Shaq Harrison over the rookie. Harrison was a minus-23 in his 23 minutes as part of a Bulls bench effort that was largely awful outside of some microwave scoring from Antonio Blakeney.
This game was so crazy that it’s easy to forget that Boylen dusted off Jabari Parker as the backup power forward for his first minutes in a few weeks. Parker was naturally rusty and generally awful, scoring four points on 2-of-8 shooting in 14 minutes. Robin Lopez was also terrible off the bench with four turnovers in only seven minutes as the Bulls’ poor bench play helped the Pacers get back in the game after the sluggish start.
Part of that turnaround was Domantas Sabonis, who dominated down low off the bench with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and three assists. Sabonis is so damn crafty and outstanding at getting position in the post, and he made hay around the bucket. The Pacers in general made a killing inside with 70 points in the paint.
Also, former punching bag Doug McDermott was useless for most of his 16 minutes until he scored five straight points in the fourth quarter. That was about the only time I noticed him.
Overall, this game was close to a best-case scenario. The Bulls’ young core was outstanding and went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the East, only to pick up a close loss on an insane shot to help with draft positioning. Getting to OT was a bit fluky with that crazy shotmaking at the end, but this was a game the Bulls deserved to win if they would’ve pulled it out. More performances like this would make the rest of this wretched season much more enjoyable to watch.
The Bulls next play a home matinee against the Nets on Sunday, and Bobby Portis may be back, but I’m sure many Bulls fans will be in Bears mode. I know I’ll be.