(Photo credit: Brian Spurlock – USA TODAY Sports)
Game 33: Chicago Bulls (16-17) lose to Indiana Pacers (16-18)
Dec. 30, 2016
Bankers Life Fieldhouse – Indianapolis
The Bulls never led in their loss to the Pacers on Friday evening. Rather, they trailed for the entirety of the first three quarters but managed to make a comeback in the fourth. The Bulls’ bench — particularly Michael Carter-Williams, Cristiano Felicio and Nikola Mirotic — along with Jimmy Butler played big roles in erasing their double-digit deficit.
Carter-Williams replaced Rajon Rondo in the lineup to open the third quarter, and Rondo ended up sitting the entire second half.
Chicago managed to tie the game at 95 midway through the final period. Carter-Williams missed a layup but stayed with it, fighting for the offensive rebound and the putback. The shot tied the game at 95, the first tie since the game started at 0-0.
The score was tied again at 97, but the Bulls never got closer than that. Instead, the last five minutes featured the Bulls getting outscored by the Pacers 14-6.
Player of the Game
Paul George proved to be the Pacers’ leader and the best player on the hardwood Friday night, posting 32 points on 10-for-20 shooting and a perfect 9-of-9 on free throws. He also added four rebounds, an assist and two steals in his team-high 37 minutes.
Cristiano Felicio was one of Chicago’s best bench players Friday night and was the lone Bull to post a double-double. He had 12 points on 4-for-5 from the field and from the charity stripe as well as 12 rebounds. All of this came despite early foul trouble: Felicio committed his third foul early in the second quarter.
His 12 points tied Michael Carter-Williams for a Chicago bench-best. He also had two assists and a steal.
The Bulls’ offense this season has become known to be inefficient, and it was no different in their loss to the Pacers. While the offense looked better in the second half and with Michael Carter-Williams running the team, it still needed work, as evidenced by the assists numbers.
The Bulls had 17 assists on the night, below the 21 average they had coming into the game, and the Pacers had 26.
Interestingly enough, the Bulls’ bench outscored the Pacers’ bench, 44-28. But it makes sense considering the role Chicago’s bench played in the game: It helped close out the first quarter so there wasn’t a double-digit deficit and assisted in the fourth-quarter comeback.
Out of Chicago’s bench Carter-Williams, Felicio and McDermott all scored in double figures — Mirotic was just short with eight points — but none of Indiana’s bench players did so.
The Bulls beat the Pacers in the fourth quarter, outscoring them 28-27. But that was the only quarter they did so, and they barely did. Chicago simply couldn’t make a comeback sooner — or one that was sufficient enough — so it suffered in the end.
The Bulls will end the year at home Saturday night when they host the Milwaukee Bucks at 6 p.m. central.
Ashley is the owner/editor of The Bulls Charge. Follow her on Twitter at @wijangco12.