The Bulls entered Tuesday night’s game against the Pacers winners of their last four road games and owners of a red-hot offensive attack in general, but the offense laid a clunker in Indy. While the Bulls were able to erase a 16-point first-half deficit to take a one-point lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Pacers dominated down the stretch to earn a 105-96 win and a 4-0 season series sweep. It’s the first time the Pacers have swept the season series since 2001-02.
Early on, it looked like the Pacers were going to cruise to victory even without Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. The Bulls came out flat and shot just 30.0 percent in the opening quarter, and some truly tanktastic shot attempts by the all-bench lineup to start the second quarter saw the deficit quickly balloon to 16 points.
The Bulls slowly started to make their way back into the game, though, aided by their own hustle and plenty of sloppiness by the home Pacers. Indy began turning the ball over with regularity, and the Bulls even scored four baskets immediately after Myles Turner blocks, which left the Pacers center visibly frustrated with not only the tough luck but his teammates for not picking him up.
The Bulls trimmed that 16-point deficit to just seven at the half, and then the third quarter belonged to Robin Lopez and Zach LaVine. Lopez scored 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the quarter (he was also aggressive to start the game), dominating down low and doing plenty of little things to help the Bulls (offensive boards, screen-setting, etc.). LaVine woke up after a sleepy first half to pour in nine points in the frame, and it was a two-point game entering the fourth quarter.
LaVine kept on rolling, and he capped off a personal 7-0 run with a dunk to give the Bulls an 86-85 lead with 7:08 remaining:
Zach LaVine is getting UP and destroying the rim tonight pic.twitter.com/TQTKqnkMuF— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 6, 2019
The Pacers responded with a 10-0 run of their own, buoyed by triples from Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison. The Bulls got back to within five points with just under two minutes to play, but another Bogdanovic triple and some Thaddeus Young bully ball sealed their fate.
The Bulls shot just 38.7 percent in this one, mostly thanks to their woeful 4-of-25 mark from beyond the arc. They did plenty of damage in the paint, outscoring the Pacers 58-38 down there, but they just couldn’t make up for that lack of outside shooting. Meanwhile, the Pacers hit 11 of their 25 3-point attempts, with Bogdanovic and Collison combining to go 7-of-10 from distance.
LaVine wound up with a nice scoring game, scoring 22 of his team-high 27 points in the second half. He had a reasonably efficient shooting night by going 10-of-22, and he put Turner on a poster after the Pacers center blocked him a few times earlier in the game:
It was only a matter of time before Flight #8 took off…WATCH YOUR HEAD pic.twitter.com/go8nG12FIU— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 6, 2019
Lopez’s out-of-nowhere offensive explosion continued with 20 points on 9-of-18 shooting to go along with nine rebounds (six offensive). Here’s a fun stat for you:
Prior to Feb. 13, Robin Lopez had 32 night of 20+ points in his 741-game career. That's 1 every 23 games.— Mark Strotman (@markstrot) March 6, 2019
He has 3 20+ points nights in his last 8 games.
Maybe the Bulls told RoLo he could shoot as much as he wanted in exchange for no buyout. Whatever the case, he has been on fire.
It was a down game for the other Bulls starters. Lauri Markkanen recorded another double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds, but he shot just 4-of-14 overall and 1-of-7 from 3-land. Otto Porter Jr. returned from a one-game absence to post his worst offensive game since joining the Bulls, scoring just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field and 1-of-5 from 3. To his credit, he did have four steals and two blocks.
Kris Dunn was Kris Dunn, and the Bulls would probably love to be able to just secretly swap starting point guards with the Pacers. Collison, a rumored Bulls target this summer, put on a nice audition with 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Bogdanovic led the way with 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting to continue his hot streak as the team’s No. 1 option without Oladipo.
The Bulls are now 18-47 and will be right back at it against Jimmy Butler’s Sixers on Wednesday night.