After starting off March on a high note, the Chicago Bulls looked to keep that going while visiting the Indiana Pacers. But with numerous players out with injuries, the Bulls could not keep up losing 92-97.
Derrick Rose continued to sit out while Richard Hamilton (back) and Taj Gibson (MCL) each missed their third straight game. Kirk Hinrich (foot) was also inactive and was seen wearing a walking boot before the game. This resulted in a starting lineup consisting of Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah.
The game began pretty evenly as each team was trading baskets, but as the quarter went on, the Bulls began to struggle. They went scoreless for nearly two minutes after scoring six-straight points. Their offense was somewhat of a concern as they only completed the first quarter with 21 points, but what prevented them from retrieving a lead was their defense. Chicago allowed Indiana to score 32 first quarter points on 65% shooting.
After the rough start, the Bulls’ bench had their mind set on getting their team caught up. Chicago may not have gotten the lead at any point in the second quarter, but the bench was a huge factor in cutting down the Pacers’ lead. Nazr Mohammed led the way for the bench with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Mohammed had a nice one-handed dunk off a pass from Marquis Teague. Vladimir Radmanovic also had a surprising play involving a dunk, in which he faked a left baseline three then drove for the slam. These plays were each a part of two separate runs performed by the supposed Bench Mob 2.0 to cut Indiana’s lead down to seven, 40-47, at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Bulls did more work to cut down the Pacers’ lead even further. Chicago opened the quarter with a right-wing jumper from Boozer, then back-to-back jumpers by Noah. This got them within five points of Indiana. Then, the Pacers got their lead back out a bit more again, but the Bulls were not done there. Belinelli got going in the third with 10 points to help contribute to Chicago’s 26-point quarter. To conclude the third period, Butler buried a left baseline three to give the Bulls a three-point deficit of 66-69.
Deng scored six straight points for the Bulls to open the fourth, tying the game at 72. But Indiana would respond with back-to-back buckets by George Hill. The remainder of the quarter would be a close competition. Chicago would tie the game again at 80, but then David West would score four points off a jumper and free throws. From there, the Bulls would never get closer than that. Turnovers cost them chances at a lead and to gain momentum.
Not only did turnovers hurt Chicago, but the Pacers also out-rebounded the Bulls 42-34. Despite the efforts from Mohammed and Radmanovic, Gibson’s absence on the glass had not been made up for, and it showed in the loss. Hinrich’s presence was also missed along the line as the Bulls struggled to set up their offense as the end neared. If only Derrick Rose had been in uniform on the bench instead of just on the bench dressed up.
Noah posted another double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds while Belinelli and Butler each added 20 points. David West had 31 points and 7 rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers.
The Bulls are now 34-26 and will return to action on Wednesday as they visit the San Antonio Spurs at 8:00 PM CT.