This matchup was always going to be a huge test for the Chicago Bulls. Chicago faced a flurry of western conference playoff teams during their road trip, which ended three days ago, and were on the second game of a back to back after playing the Knicks on Sunday. They were going to have to fight off the weariness caused by a grueling schedule, and also play a solid team in the Indiana Pacers. The Bulls were now down to replacing the replacement starter, as Alex Caruso was a late scratch.
This had all the makings of a schedule loss and it’s exactly what happened...and more.
From the get-go, Indiana jumped all over a sleepwalking Chicago team going up double digits early in the first quarter. Indiana extended their lead to as much as 18 in the first and it could have been worse if not for some pull-up shots by DeRozan at the end of the quarter. And from then on, things went from bad to worse as the Pacers kept piling it on the Bulls in a 109-77 blowout loss. It was easily Chicago’s worst game of the season, supplanting the loss to the Warriors two weeks ago.
Chicago’s offensive numbers are as expected from a team which lost by 32. The Bulls shot just 36.5 percent from the field and 21.4 from three. They even uncharacteristically went 60 percent from the line, something you don’t often see from one of the better FT shooting teams in the league. It wasn’t turnovers which plagued the Bulls as they committed just nine but they were taking difficult jumpers and their offense didn’t have its usual spark to it. DeMar DeRozan was Chicago’s leading scorer in this one with 18 points while Zach LaVine had 17. No other Bull had more than eight points.
The second quarter saw an improvement offensively from the Bulls, but Indiana’s defense was still causing problems as the Bulls had to fight just to get quality looks at the baskets and a lot of the shots LaVine and DDR made were contested ones. The Bulls closed the gap to nine points multiple times in the second, only to see a flurry of baskets in response by Indiana, who had all five starters in double digits by halftime. A Malcolm Brogdon layup at the horn capped off a 9-2 Indiana run to end the half and a 21 point deficit for the Bulls.
Indiana worked itself up to 30 point lead in the final minute of third, sealing shut any hope of a Bulls furious rally in fourth quarter. Down 28 with 12 minutes to go, Donovan smartly took out his starters and put in both Matt Thomas and Alize Johnson. He then subbed in Marko Simonovic and Devon Dotson with six minutes to go as this was a chance for the guys on the end of the bench to get some playing time. Dotson and Simonovic finished with two and one point respectively while Matt Thomas hit one of his four three-point attempts to finish with five points.
The game got so out of hand, it had a clearly frustrated Chicago crowd voice their displeasures about other sports in the city.
By the time the game was over, the final score was 109-77 Pacers as Chicago scored their lowest point total of the season.
Looking at the team beyond DeRozan and LaVine: Lonzo Ball really struggled in this one. He missed all seven of his field goal attempts and finished with zero points although he did add five rebounds. Coby White, who got the start to replace Alex Caruso, had a rough game as he scored just four points on two of 10 shooting while also grabbing five rebounds. Tony Bradley had six points and five rebounds.
The bench gave Chicago some spark, helping them cut the lead in the second quarter, but ultimately struggled as well. Javonte Green had three points and four boards while Derrick Jones Jr. had eight points and five rebounds. Ayo Donsumu had seven points, knocking down three of his four attempts. Troy Brown Jr. found himself back in the rotation thanks to the absence of Caruso and played 30 minutes, but struggled from the field with just two of nine shooting. He was one of five Bulls who finished with five rebounds.
This a rough watch from the get-go for Chicago. Offensively they looked tired and were forcing a ton of contested shots. It didn’t help that Myles Turner decided to make his presence felt in this game as he blocked four shots.
Myles Turner meets Zach LaVine at the hole pic.twitter.com/FsMfci9dxx— Pacers Nation (@PacersNationCP) November 23, 2021
Defensively the Bulls weren’t up for it either. They left shooters open on the three-point line and gave up drive after drive to the basket by Indiana. The Pacers wound up with a eFG% of 51.7% helped by going 13-31 (42%) from three, with former Bull Justin Holiday leading the way from distance going 4-7.
In an 82 game season, these types of nights will happen where Chicago just doesn’t have it. But they have to bounce back from this as they play three more games this week, albeit with easier opponents as they travel to Texas to play the Houston Rockets.