Joe Robbins | Getty Images
INDIANAPOLIS – Nate McMillan was worried about this one.
On paper, playing at home against the 5-19 Bulls, who have been dealing with a slew of injuries shouldn’t have caused too much stress.
But Chicago was playing their first game after Fred Hoiberg had been fired, plus Tuesday was Indiana’s first game back from their western road trip
That had McMillan a bit uneasy.
Well, Tuesday wasn’t the prettiest effort from the Pacers (14-10), but they got the job done on the defensive end of the floor to pull out a 96-90 win over the Bulls (5-20).
“We just looked flat, didn’t have a lot of energy,” McMillan said after the Pacers’ ‘ugly’ win. “It just seemed like we were still dragging a little bit. I think that trip did have something to do with it.
“But I said to our guys, ‘You found a way to win a game like this.’ Of course, we needed this win. We knew this was going to be a scrappy team coming in here with a new coach.”
The Pacers did find a way to win, thanks to their NBA-best scoring defense once again getting the job done.
Darren Collison led the Pacers with 23 points, as Indiana was without Victor Oladipo for an 8th straight game.
Big men Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis combined for 27 points, 22 rebounds, and 6 blocks, with McMillan electing to use both of his bigs to finish Tuesday’s win.
Down 2 at halftime, the Pacers traded the lead with the Bulls 15 times in the third quarter, before Indiana went on a 16-8 run, which spilled into the early part of the fourth quarter.
Chicago would not come closer than 3 points the rest of the way.
The Bulls attempted just 5 foul shots on Tuesday, the fewest for any NBA team this season.
Indiana avoided a three-game losing streak with Tuesday’s win. The last time the Pacers lost three in a row was a 5-game skid last December/January.
Three Pacers’ Takeaways:
–Pacers Finish With Their Bigs: As the Pacers adapt through this stretch with Oladipo out, Nate McMillan has shown he’s very open to mixing up his closing lineup. On Tuesday, McMillan turned to Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on the floor together. It was the first time the Pacers have ever used both of their talented young bigs together to finish off a game. Turner was outstanding on Tuesday night, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. A more aggressive Turner has certainly been there in the past week. After just 1 double-double in the first 20 games of the season, Turner has a trio of double-doubles in the last 4 contests for the Pacers. Sabonis added 9 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. With these two on the floor, the Bulls never got closer than 3 points down the stretch.
–Darren Collison Leads Scoring: It’s not often you see Darren Collison lead the Pacers in scoring. The veteran point guard did that on Tuesday thought, scoring 23 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line. Collison also added 8 rebounds. Nate McMillan thought Indiana’s bigs did a nice job of screening Collison free for clean mid-range looks. With Oladipo out, the Pacers certainly would love more scoring punch from Collison. Early in the season, the Pacers were not getting consistent enough play from their starting point guard. Tuesday isn’t the norm, but it is what this team really needs right now as they try to scratch their way to 100 points each night.
–Oladipo’s Absence Will Continue: Do not expect Victor Oladipo’s return this week. Nate McMillan said before Tuesday’s game that Oladipo is not scheduled to practice this week, continuing the ‘out indefinitely’ label that the Pacers used last Friday in an injury update for their All-Star. McMillan said Oladipo did some shooting on Tuesday morning. With Oladipo now out for 8 straight games, the Pacers are 4-4 in those contests. Indiana is clearly being extremely cautious with Oladipo right now. A favorable schedule, with 6 of their next 8 at home, could help the Pacers survive without their best player.
Pacers Upcoming Schedule
-at Magic (Friday, 12/7)
-Kings (Saturday, 12/8)
-Wizards (Monday, 12/10)
-Bucks (Wednesday, 12/12)
-at Philadelphia (Friday, 12/14)