Game Rewind: Pacers 104, Bulls 92
With just over five minutes remaining and leading by 11 over the Bulls, Paul George came off a screen and floated into the corner with outstretched hands, awaiting the pass from George Hill.
Hill delivered the ball, PG drilled the shot, and the crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse erupted as Indiana went on to beat the Bulls 104-92 on Friday night behind a hard-fought 33 points and eight rebounds from Paul George.
For the Pacers, the win came the way so many have during their streak of 10 wins in 12 games: push-the-tempo offense, paired with a swarming defense. That, and Paul George scoring 20 or more points for his 11th consecutive game.
“To start this year, we weren’t a top-10, top-20 team,” said George of people’s expectations of the Pacers. “They probably still don’t see us that way, but we know in this locker room what we have, and we just go out and play. We focus on what we have control over.”
The Bulls made a late run at things with under four minutes remaining in the contest, but of all things, it was Ian Mahinmi free throws that helped ice the game for the Pacers, as he nailed 7-of-8 shots from the charity stripe in the final five minutes to foil Chicago’s plan of intentionally fouling him (Mahinmi has been averaging 21 percent from the free throw line this season). In the locker room, Pacers head coach Frank Vogel came and shook Mahinmi’s hand as he was giving postgame interviews to reporters. “I told you it was going to stabilize,” Vogel told his center.
“The more I shoot, the better I feel,” said Mahinmi at his locker, with both knees taped in ice. “Tonight I got to see a few of them go in and I got into my rhythm. I shoot a lot of free throws every day, so it’s just a matter of getting my rhythm.”
Solomon Hill, whose minutes have been few and far between this season after leading the Pacers in minutes last year, came up huge in the fourth quarter, as Vogel inserted him in the game to guard Nikola Mirotic, who had erupted for 22 points by the time the third quarter expired.
Hill not only was able to put the clamps on Mirotic, who only scored three more points to finish with 25, but helped propel the Pacers’ offense as well. Hill finished the night with three rebounds, three assists, and a steal in just 12 minutes of play, giving him a bench-unit high +8 for the night.
“We needed some minutes there. We needed him,” Vogel said of Hill. “They had (Taj) Gibson and (Joakim) Noah out there. We told him before the game to be ready. He stepped up and played terrific. His run was a big part of us closing out the game.”
The win against Chicago was the Pacers’ sixth over the past seven regular season matchups between the Central Division foes, and came easy behind PG’s monster 33-point night, an impressive encore to his 40-point outburst on Tuesday. It is the second time this season that he’s posted back-to-back games of 30 or more points, something he had only done once prior to the 2015-16 season.
The Pacers outscored the Bulls in the first quarter of action at the Fieldhouse, using first-half runs of 11-0, 7-0, and 9-2 to build a 51-42 lead at halftime behind 16 points from C.J. Miles; including a 4-point play that ignited the crowd early.
For much of the third quarter, the teams traded defensive stops as both sides struggled to produce on the offensive end. Chicago, however, seemed to be closing the gap on the Pacers’ lead, winnowing the advantage down to just four points after a Mirotic free throw. But Indiana pushed back in force with 1:31 remaining in the third, as Lavoy Allen (12 points, 10 rebounds) drained a jumper, PG made a contested layup, and Monta Ellis (14 points, five assists) snapped the net to cap the 6-1 run that allowed Indiana to regain its nine-point lead that it started the period with.
A quick 4-0 Pacers run to start the fourth triggered a timeout from Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg. After that brief intermission, a barrage of 3-pointers ensued from both teams. The Bulls drained back-to-back shots from beyond the arc, but Stuckey countered with a 3-pointer of his own. Kirk Hinrich hit one from deep, only to be answered by a Paul George three to put the Pacers back up by 10. And then, just for good measure, Jimmy Butler (16 points) drilled a three from the left wing to inch the Bulls closer, setting up the finish at the Fieldhouse.
The win, which catapulted the Pacers (10-5) into a second place tie near the top of the Eastern Conference, has once again raised expectations for an Indiana team that has been making a habit of blowing teams out of late, both on the road and at home. The Pacers had won their previous three games by double-digits.
Friday night was no different.
When Paul George drilled his final 3-pointer of the game and trotted back on defense, the Indiana crowd rose to its feat in approval of what they were seeing: a team on the rise, with heights still unknown.
Inside the Numbers
The last time the Pacers scored 104 points or more in four consecutive games was in 2011.
The Bulls’ field goal percentage of 34.8 was their lowest of the season.
Indiana outrebounded the Bulls 51-47. The Pacers are now 7-1 when they outrebound their opponent.
Every Bulls starter finished with a negative +/-
What They’re Saying
“Work breeds confidence. We accepted the challenge of being able to change our style and being able to see it grow. We took the bumps and we’re just reaping the benefits. Guys are continuing to play hard and we’re staying focused.” -C.J. Miles
“That’s the way we always want to start a game, especially at home. We want to deliver the first punch and be the aggressor. We started well, we pushed the ball, all the guards on our team are aggressive. We want to be in an attack mode at the start. When we get it going early in a game like that, it’s just a good feeling.” -Ian Mahinmi on attacking early
“He is playing at an MVP-type level. He’s doing it on both ends, he’s playing great basketball. We just tried to make it difficult.” -Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg on Paul George
“We’ve got guys that take pride in guarding their man. A lot of times we’re playing small lineups and it allows us to switch. When you’ve got five guys out there that don’t like to be scored on and take pride in playing defense, you’re going to have a pretty good defensive unit.” -Paul George on defense
Stat of the Night
Just 15 games into the 2015-16 season, the Pacers have had three separate winning streaks of three games or more. Last season, the Pacers didn’t have their third winning streak of three games or more until a March 4 win over the New York Knicks in Game 60 of the season. What a difference a year makes.
- With 12 points and 10 rebounds, Lavoy Allen picked up his first double-double of the season
- Ian Mahinmi, who had been shooting below 25 percent from the free throw line for the season, finished 7-of-10 from the charity stripe
- George Hill tied his Pacers-high in rebounding with 10 boards on the night
- Jordan Hill did not play (sore back)
by Greg Rappaport