(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) – The seven-game losing streak for the Indiana Pacers (24-25) is finally over as they come from behind to defeat the Chicago Bulls (22-25) 116-110.
In the first twelve minutes of action, it was not pretty offensively for the Pacers. They missed a shot in every way possible whether that be an air ball, off the rim, or even off the backboard without touching the rim. The Bulls looked like a team that had just played the previous night because their offense was crisp as they jumped ahead by 15 points in the quarter. Indiana shot 9/27 (33%) whereas the Bulls converted ten of their sixteen shots (62.5%) and ten of their eleven free-throws. Chicago led 33-21 after the first period. The big three for Chicago combined for 22 of those 33. Nikola Vucevic had eight points and six boards, Zach LaVine had seven points, and DeMar DeRozan had seven.
The offense for Indiana did improve in the second quarter when the team needed it most. The catalyst was not T.J. McConnell, Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, or Bennedict Mathurin. Instead, it was Chris Duarte sparking the offense for the Pacers with 11 points in quarter number two. The Pacers were down 21 points with 1:40 to go in the second quarter. Indiana closed the second on a crucial 5-0 run to make it a 62-46 lead for Chicago. Chicago had three players in double figures at the break in Vucevic (12), DeRozan (11), and Derrick Jones Jr. with ten. Indiana’s lone double-figure scorer was Duarte (11).
Quarter number three is where the Bulls really started to get tired on the second night of their back-to-back. They failed to convert a single three (0/5) and were held to 41% from the floor as a result of some defensive adjustments from Rick Carlisle and assistant coach Ronald Nored. One of the most polarizing players on the roster for Pacer fans in Myles Turner really went at Vucevic in the third quarter. He tied a career high in points in a quarter with 16. Turner converted seven of his eleven shots including a pair of three pointers on four attempts. McConnell really got the offense flowing too, dishing out four assists while scoring seven points. The Pacers would chip away at their deficit and got it down to single digits with 3:30 to go and would keep it that way for most of the way. The score after 36-minutes of basketball was 87-80.
Going into the game, Indiana had the third most clutch wins in the NBA and the third most clutch games played, in comparison to Chicago who is 8-16 in those games (tied for second fewest in NBA). The experience for Indiana really came in handy. The catalysts for the fourth quarter comeback, the rookie (Mathurin) and the seven-year veteran (Hield). The two guards for Indiana combined to score 25 of the teams 36-points. The Arizona product had 15 points, including a clutch three pointer that put Indiana ahead 110-108 with 61 seconds left and followed it up with a layup to regain a two-point lead as a result of Vucevic dunking between possessions. Aaron Nesmith came up big in the quarter with a block, steal, and shutting down DeRozan late when Chicago tried getting him the ball. He and Hield would make their free-throws to ice the game away to win 116-110.
TOP PERFORMERS: Bennedict Mathurin (26p, 7r), Myles Turner (26p, 7r), T.J. McConnell (20p, 10a, 3s), DeMar DeRozan (33p, 5r), Nikola Vucevic (20p, 8r, 5a). To see the full box score for tonight’s game, click here.
NOTES: T.J. McConnell notched his third triple double as a Pacer and fourth of his career, this is the 13th win this season in the NBA with a team down 20+, the second time the Pacers have won a game trailing by 20+, and the second time Chicago has blown a 20+ lead, and the Pacers prevented Nikola Vucevic from grabbing a rebound in the second half.
NEXT UP: It’s a quick turnaround for the Pacers as they catch a flight to Orlando to take on the Magic. Tip is slated for 7pm with the Kroger Pregame Show starting at 6:30pm with Pat Boylan on 93.5/107.5 The Fan.