The Bulls offense tonight was essentially two very good games from Zach LaVine (43 points) and a Coby White performance off the bench (23), but the also-shorthanded Pacers ended up scoring 70 points in the paint as they gave Chicago their sixth straight loss, 116-105.
Without Wendell Carter Jr., the Chicago Bulls defense has taken a massive hit. Gone is the player who can clean up the mistakes made on the perimeter by protecting the rim and also a shrewd help defender who makes sure the Bulls don’t get beat on mismatches. So far in his absence, Chicago hasn’t been able to stop opposing big men. Against New Orleans, Jaxson Hayes had free dunks at the rim and Derrick Favors was getting to any spot he wanted in the paint. Against the Indiana Pacers, it was the same result with Myles Turner and T.J. Warren scoring easy baskets near the hoop all night.
Turner was the star of the game. He scored 27 points on 10 of 18 shooting along with 14 rebounds. It was a very efficient night as he got many of his shots near the hoop. With Daniel Gafford and Lauri Markkanen at times, the Bulls would double the ball handler (as they always do) and leave Turner hanging out near the free-throw line. The Pacers guards would usually make the pass towards him and then he would create his shot from there. Like here when Markkanen goes and blitzes the pick then has to scramble back to Turner. By the time he gets back, Turner is already at the basket. With Gafford hesitating to step up on the drive, Turner has enough space to loft a shot over him and into the basket.
However, Chicago switched the scheme when Luke Kornet was in the game. They opted to not have him be as aggressive yet Turner still found his way to the basket.
While in this clip Kornet wasn’t necessarily put in a situation where he had to guard the pick and roll, these types of plays highlight the trouble Chicago has defensively when he’s on the court. The Pacers have Turner look like he’s going to set a screen at the top of the three-point line but instead Warren dashes near the logo. This draws away Tomas Satoransky and both of the defenders behind Kornet covering the corners, there is nobody behind him. Turner catches the ball at the three-point line and initially, Kornet is right in front of him but quickly things change. Turner catches Kornet flat-footed and blows right by him to the rim. Markkanen is late crashing down for the help and it’s a free run to the hoop. There is a late contest but it doesn’t matter as ball already bounced off the glass and in.
It wasn’t just the Pacers forwards who found easy shots in the paint. Their guards also found some success as well, including former Bull Doug McDermott. Another problem with Chicago’s defense was their perimeter defenders were getting caught napping, allowing Indiana guards to cut right by them.
After dribbling the ball back out, Justin Holiday is stuck. He gave up his dribble against Thaddeus Young and now with the shot clock winding down, his options are running out. Young knocks away the ball to force a turnover but Holiday gets it back and looks up. During the few seconds where Young went for the ball, McDermott raced right by Chandler Hutchison towards the basket. It took a while for Hutchison to realize his man was running right by him and by the time he did, McDermott was in the restricted area with the ball in his hands. With nobody else even near him, it was an easy lay-in.
Without their anchor in the middle, the Bulls defense looked lost. Guys were out of position and the Pacers kept feasting off the mistakes. It was easy layup and layup for Indiana and it ended blowing the game open. The Bulls may have the ninth-best defensive rating in the league but against the Pacers, they turned in a woeful performance on that side of the ball.