These aren’t Jim Boylen’s Chicago Bulls anymore.
Billy Donovan has Zach LaVine and company playing at their best in recent memory. The Indiana Pacers handled Chicago relatively easy in the Windy City the day after Christmas with a 19-point win.
But in the eye of a winter storm Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Blue and Gold lost to the Bulls for the first time in four years.
In a 120-112 final in overtime, Chicago was the grittier team in Downtown Indianapolis.
“We as a group need to be better at blocking out,” T. J. McConnell said after his first start with the Pacers. “We have a tendency to watch shots go up instead of blocking out our man. We have to be better or else it’s going to continue biting us in the butt.”
In reality, it was an off night across the board for Indiana. But when you’ve already been through a four-game losing streak in a shortened season, off nights can’t be a regular thing.
It didn’t help that Doug McDermott was out either. Each team shot 33 three-pointers and Chicago came away with the distinct advantage there. The Bulls shot 39 percent from deep, while Indiana was only at 27 percent.
That’s where you miss Dougie Fresh.
Myles Turner went just 1/6 from beyond the arc and Malcolm Brogdon was an uncharacteristic 1/7.
“We just missed some shots we normally would make,” Nate Bjorkgren said. “I thought it would be very different than what it was. The thing I’d like to change is to play with our pace for more parts of the game. We had some possessions where we stood there and watched too much.”
Brogdon and Domantas Sabonis each had double-doubles as well. The turnovers, along with the mix of missed shots and inability to get stops, just continued to rear its head.
The Bulls just would not go away.
Even when you take into account that McDermott didn’t play and the Pacers are still without T.J. Warren and Caris LeVert, being right at .500 28 games in and 7-9 at home is unacceptable for a group that is expected to win.
Chicago was missing important players too. Lauri Markkanen and Otto Porter Jr. were both out.
In Bjorkgren’s postgame Zoom session, he did give an update on Warren and LeVert. Both were on the bench along with the rest of the crew.
“T.J. is back and has spent a lot of time with our training staff,” Bjorkgren said. “We can’t pinpoint on if it will be a couple weeks or a month, but he’s back rehabbing. When he can do some things on the court, we’ll get him there. But he can’t do that yet. Caris might be in some non-contact stuff soon. He’s been at our practices.”
You never want to rush rehabs or the process of coming back from injuries.
But this is an Indiana team that has lost seven of their last ten; And they could really use a shot in the arm.
As well as a snow blower.