(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) – After trailing by as much as 23 in the second half, Buddy Hield’s second half domination with 27 points led the Indiana Pacers (26-34) to a 117-113 victory over the Chicago Bulls (26-32). The win snapped the five-game losing streak for Indiana and extended Chicago’s losing streak to five games.
It’s well known that the Indiana Pacers prefer to play up tempo games because of their ability to shoot threes, but the Chicago Bulls are about middle in the league in pace. In the early stages of the first quarter, the Bulls dictated the pace by slowing down Indiana. Through the first six minutes of the period, Aaron Nesmith was the only Pacer to score with a pair of threes. It took eight minutes for the Pacers to finally hit double figures after Bennedict Mathurin hit a triple to make the score 22-12. Prior to that, Chicago went on a 12-0 run that allowed them to get ahead by as much as 13 points. The big bug a boo for the Pacers was taking care of the basketball as the team turned it over seven times. After the first quarter, the Bulls led the Pacers 39-15. The leading scorer was Zach LaVine with 12 points. As a team, Chicago shot 63%.
The Pacers would settle down a little bit in terms of taking care of the basketball. Their offense was still struggling to make consecutive shots, but the good thing for the Pacers was that the Bulls couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. Through the first eight and a half minutes of the quarter, Chicago had scored nine points. The turning point for the Pacers was a timeout with 9:57 left in the quarter. Indiana was down 41-18, but a new face in the locker room was rallying the troops on the sideline by giving a passionate speech. It was the IUPUI alumnus in George Hill. Indiana would outscore Chicago 21-8 in six minutes, but the Bulls closed the quarter outscoring Indiana 10-3 the final 3:34 to lead 58-42 at halftime. An integral part of the comeback for Indiana was their leading scorer in the half in Chris Duarte, who scored 11 points. LaVine led all scorers with 17 points. Chicago had four players in double figures with Coby White (12p on 5/5 shooting), Dosunmu (11p), and Nikola Vucevic (10p) joining LaVine.
We shall refer to the third quarter as the Buddy Hield quarter. After being held scoreless in the first 24 minutes of the game, Hield came out of the locker room on a mission. Indiana would trail 69-46, and then Hield went bonkers. During the final ten minutes of action in the period, he went 6/7 with give of those baskets being three-pointers. Coming into the game, Hield needed six threes to break Reggie Miller’s record of 229 in a season. With 5:13 to go, Indiana would cut the deficit to single digits for the first time since the first quarter at 77-69. They would get as close as four when Hield knocked down his fourth three to make it 79-75 and then again 86-82 as Buddy knocked down a triple with the quarter expiring.
It took the Pacers 39-minutes to lead for the first time in this game against Chicago, but better late than never, right? With 8:51 to go in the contest, Bennedict Mathurin knocked down a two-point shot that gave Indiana a 92-90 lead. From that moment on, it would be a dog fight for the Pacers. Just moments after taking their first lead, Indiana went ahead by five at 98-93. Chicago would not go down without a fight as they went on a quick 7-0 run to go back ahead 100-98. Hield would tie the game up at 100, but then Chicago made two threes to go ahead 106-100 with 3:44 to go. Aaron Nesmith drilled a corner three that really got the fans in Gainbridge Fieldhouse back into it because it felt like some recent games where the Pacers would wilt under pressure. On the next Indiana possession, Buddy Hield would set the franchise record for threes in a single season and tie the game at 106. The teams would exchange the lead for the next couple minutes, before Tyrese Haliburton banked in a deuce to go ahead 113-112. The Pacers would get a stop before Myles Turner knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Pacers in the driver’s seat. Indiana wins it 117-113.
TOP PERFORMERS: Buddy Hield (27p, 6 threes), Aaron Nesmith (21p, 7r), Myles Turner (17p, 9r), Tyrese Haliburton (16p, 8a), Zach LaVine (35p, 11r, 7a), Coby White (25p, 5 threes), and Nikola Vucevic (19p, 7r). For tonight’s full box score, click here.
NOTES: The 24-point differential in the first tied the third worst first quarter differential in Pacers franchise history and the 39 points in the first quarter was the fourth most given up in a first quarter this season. Hield’s 19 points in the third quarter set a record for points in a quarter as a Pacer. Hield recorded his 24th game with 5+ threes and 9th game with 6+ threes on the season. The 24-point deficit was the largest deficit the Pacers have overcome this season and second time overcoming a 20+ deficit against the Bulls and third win this season after trailing by 20+.
NEXT UP: Following the All-Star break, the Indiana Pacers will host the Boston Celtics on Thursday, February 23rd. Following the Celtics game, the Pacers will go on the road for four games before a pair of home games against Philadelphia and Houston. After the break, 11 of their 15 games will be on the road. Tip-off next Thursday against Boston is set for 7pm at Gainbridge Fieldhouse with the Kroger Pregame Show starting at 6:30pm with Pat Boylan on 93.5/107.5 The Fan.
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Trackside with Curt Cavin & Kevin Lee