Nov 6, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) reacts during the second quarter against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The Pacers won 97-80. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Indiana Pacers 97, Chicago Bulls 80: What did we learn?

So, the Chicago Bulls lost to the Indiana Pacers after the Pacers kicked things up an extra gear in the fourth quarter and turned a close game into a blowout. It was awful. But it happened, so now it’s time to figure out what we can learn from it.

1) Derrick Rose still struggled overall, but he’s getting there.

Rose opened the game by going 3/3 from the field. He took a handoff from Joakim Noah and pulled up for a foul-line jumper, then spotted up and hit a three, then drove into the lane and hit one of his trademark floaters. He finished 5/8 from the field in the first half, a marked improvement from his past few games. Of course, he went just 1/7 in the second half, but whatever.

He also played a season-low of 28 minutes because Tom Thibodeau stuck with a bench unit that was playing well for most of the fourth quarter, which I’ll talk about more in a second. Yes, he only had two assists, but I can think of at least two instances in the first half where he found guys for layups which they promptly missed. And he scored more points than he took shots for the first time this season, so that’s exciting.

Look, Rose will be fine. It may take a little while longer, but he’ll get there. This game was an encouraging step in the right direction.

2) The bench unit actually played well, which confuses me. But I liked it.

I have gone on the record in a few different instances where I said the Bulls’ bench would struggle unless they played Marquis Teague and went small. Apparently I was wrong, although I consider this more of an aberration than anything else. Kirk Hinrich actually played well, which is nice as long as it persists. Mike Dunleavy made some shots and kind of seems like he might be coming out of his early season funk a bit. That’s the biggest thing the bench needs. I’ve called Teague the only true playmaker on the roster besides Rose, but if Dunleavy’s coming of screens and making shots, he might qualify too.

Regardless, Thibs began putting the starters back in with 6:16 left in the fourth, down 3, and promptly watched the lead swell to 12. So that’s not good. But it was encouraging to see the bench do well nonetheless.

3) What exactly does Taj Gibson have to do to get more minutes?

Through three games, Carlos Boozer was probably the best player on the Bulls. But he shot 3/10 and scored 6 last night while Taj played well, and somehow Taj only played 23 minutes. I just don’t understand this. Same thing happened on Saturday in Philadelphia, where Taj played out of his mind and only got 24 minutes. Doesn’t make sense to me.

4) The outside shooting improved, is still bad.

The Bulls actually managed to go 5/15 from three against the Pacers. Woo, progress! The problem is that’s still bad. First off, it would be nice to see them shoot more from there even if they miss. Jimmy Butler has taken a number of long twos when he could just as easily have taken threes and he’s far from the only one who has done that. Second, guys just need to hit those shots. I think they will, especially once Rose gets back on track and they start seeing more open looks. Hinrich, Luol Deng and Dunleavy all have a solid track record of shooting at least somewhat well from outside, and I’d like to think that Jimmy’s torrid shooting last season wasn’t a fluke. Now it’s just up to them to make shots.

That’s all I got. Bulls take on the Utah Jazz at home on Friday.

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