Less than 24 hours after a solid win against the Atlanta Hawks, the Chicago Bulls suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers 116-110. It was also a frustrating loss as the Bulls were up 20 points in the second half only to watch it all crumble away. Indiana outscored Chicago by nine in the third and 13 in the final quarter. This was a team on a long losing streak who were missing their best player.
There were a variety of factors which sparked this implosion by the Bulls: offensive inefficiency, lack of defensive pressure on drives to the hoop, fatigue from playing a second game of a back to back, or some combination of those.
Chicago had a chance to send this game into overtime after Indiana took a two-point lead with 29 seconds left. But an errant inbounds pass sailed over the hands of Nikola Vucevic and ensured they didn't even have a chance of coming back. The Bulls scored six points over the final three minutes along with three turnovers.
It looked like they would cruise tonight. The Bulls got off to a fast start and were in rhythm most of the game on offense, shooting 48.2 percent from the field. Once again their three-point shooting woes appeared as they made just five of their 24 attempts (20.8%). Chicago didn’t do a good job forcing mistakes from Indiana, who committed just six turnovers. Meanwhile the Bulls gave up the ball 16 times. There wasn’t much ball movement either with just 19 assists on 43 makes.
DeMar DeRozan led the way with 33 points with most of his scoring coming in the second half. He went 14 of 21 from the field with five rebounds and three assists. There were some rough moments from him late in the game especially when it came to forcing some shots but he also made tough baskets to keep Indiana at bay for a while.
Vucevic had 20 points along with eight rebounds and five assists. He also added two blocks. Zach LaVine had a tough time shooting the ball, going just four of 14 from the field plus four assists. He was aggressive in getting to the basket and drawing contact, shooting seven free throws. But the big blemish will be the six turnovers with two of them coming in crunch time. Patrick Williams had a strong first half but struggled to play a complete game, finishing with seven points and five rebounds.
Derrick Jones Jr. was the star off the bench with 10 points and five rebounds. Most of his scoring production was done down the baseline as he was smartly cutting to the hoop whenever any Bulls player drove into the lane. Andre Drummond only played six minutes but scored seven points, grabbed five rebounds, and had this utterly chaotic sequence:
It does not get more Drummond than this pic.twitter.com/jzYv4YGbpN— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) January 25, 2023
The Pacers were led by the 26 points of rookie Benedict Mathurin. It was his three-pointer which ended up being the one which gave Indiana the lead for good. Myles Turner also pitched in with 26 while TJ McConnell had 19. The Pacers had six players score in double digits.
Nothing is more accurately descriptive about the Bulls than suffering a deflating loss such as this one after a mini stretch of good play. Just when you think you can talk yourself into the team being good late in the season, games like this happen. While the NBA season can have it’s wacky moments, these types of losses happen way too often for a team that has playoff aspirations. Tonight was just another reminder of how far the Bulls have to climb back in order to right the ship. Losing games against teams you should be beating is nearly inexcusable at this point. With the trade deadline on the horizon, Chicago’s front office is going to have some decisions to make.