After losing to the Phoenix Suns to start the weekend, the Chicago Bulls were looking to bounce back in a crucial game against the Indiana Pacers, who are right next to the Bulls in the standings. As it has against the Pacers all season, the Bulls blew a double-digit lead, though it wasn’t nearly as late or massive as the last time.
Chicago did a solid job in the fourth quarter to battle back and re-took the lead with around 5 minutes to go, but ultimately it was another clutch loss, bringing their season long record in such situations to 11-22.
In crunch time it was a combination of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, both making tough shots to give the Bulls the lead. After a Buddy Hield three-pointer put them down 2 points, Chicago got a break when LaVine was fouled by Benedict Mathurin while shooting three and had a chance to take the lead. However, LaVine missed the third free throw after tying the game.
It allowed the Pacers to take the last shot. And with less than 5 seconds to go in the game, Tyrese Haliburton pulled up and drilled a long three to give Indiana a 125-122 lead. It was Haliburton’s team-high 29th point of the game.
Haliburton is too good man. From 30 feet out pic.twitter.com/v8Vx7oluhk— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) March 5, 2023
There was some time left on the clock for the Bulls to attempt to tie, but the following ATO resulted in Nikola Vucevic missing a fadeaway three from the wing after the Pacers effectively denied the entry pass to LaVine:
Billy Donovan explains what went down on the final play pic.twitter.com/9kVvRONTip— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) March 6, 2023
LaVine was the star of the game for Chicago with 42 points on 13 of 23 shooting. He was aggressive in seeking contact, going to the line 13 times which was more than any other player in the game. Driving lanes were open against the Pacers and he found them, cutting through their defense multiple times. LaVine also was knocking down shots from three (five of eight).
But it brought to light yet again the lack of shooting elsewhere on the roster. It’s frustrating to see Chicago lose a game in which they shot 60 percent from the field, scored 122 points, and hit 45 percent of their three-pointers but the box score tells exactly why it happened. Not only did Indiana make six more shots from deep but they had double the amount of three-point attempts as the Bulls did. Three-point shooting is the great equalizer and while Chicago is at least making their attempts from there, an increase in volume has to happen.
Another way the Pacers made up the shooting percentage difference was gaining extra possessions. It’s a recent trend continued in this one as the Pacers had 13 offensive boards to the Bulls 4.
Nikola Vucevic nearly registered another double double with 12 points and nine rebounds. He dished out five assists and had active hands with two steals. DeRozan finished with 23 points on nine of 16 shooting and again provided clutch shot making in the fourth quarter. In terms of crunch time offense, a big topic of conversation following their near-collapse in Detroit, the split looked pretty even between him and LaVine as both of them took big shots.
Patrick Williams, back to the bench for Alex Caruso in this one, was the leading scorer off the Bulls bench with 14 points on five of six shooting. He was aggressive anytime he got the ball in his hands including a couple of drives to the hoop. You can still see flashes of how Williams can grow as an offensive player during these stretches. He’s a really good player at getting downhill and outmuscling defenders to the hoop, giving the Bulls another paint scoring option.
As a unit, however, the Bulls bench was outscored by their Pacers counterparts 57-30, with the bench having nearly as many 3 point attempts (Chris Duarte went 5-8 from deep) as the Bulls entire team.
Now with the loss, the Bulls allowed Indiana to earn the tiebreaker and jump over them in the standings. That puts them to 12th in the East, two games behind Washington in 10th.
The team gets a few days off before starting a mini road-trip against the best-in-the-west Denver Nuggets.