The Bulls Friday fought back all game from an early 14-point deficit, tied the game midway through the fourth quarter and then were overrun by Paul George and lost to the Indiana Pacers 111-101.
The defeat dropped the Bulls to 16-17 and facing Milwaukee at home Saturday. The Pacers are 16-18.
The Bulls tied the game at 95 with 5:50 left on a Michael Carter-Williams three-point play. But seven straight Indiana points from George and a late four-point possession on a clear path foul proved decisive.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 25 points. Dwyane Wade had 20. Carter-Williams had 12 points and eight assists. Cristiano Felicio had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Doug McDermott had 10 points, making four of five shots. George had 32 points for Indiana.
It was a quick rematch after the Bulls 90-85 victory over the Pacers Monday. It was also the fourth and last game for the season between the Central Division teams. It was an unusual 4 p.m. Eastern time start, and the Bulls looked like they still were doing early layup lines to start. The Pacers jumped on the Bulls with seven straight points and a 22-8 lead before darkness. The Bulls were lazy with the ball and committed five turnovers in the first five minutes. The Pacers led 26-12 with three minutes left in the first quarter, but the Bulls did have a strong close with McDermott’s aggressive shooting and trailed 28-22 after one quarter. George had 10 first quarter points. Wade then was adept penetrating and finding McDermott and scoring on his own. It enabled the Bulls to slide within 46-42 with 5:10 left in the first half. But with Wade out the offense slowed again and with a few Bulls defensive lapses, the Pacers eased ahead 62-50 at halftime. The Bulls had nine turnovers which led to 13 Pacers’ points while the Bulls got two points off Indiana turnovers. Butler had 15 points and Felicio led everyone in first half rebounding, but the Pacers shot 51 percent in the half. The Pacers had 13 first half free throws after complaining about the 10 they shot in the loss earlier this week.
The Bulls opened the second half with a major change, starting Carter-Williams for Rajon Rondo, the first time this season Rondo didn’t start a half when healthy. It was Carter-Williams’ third game back after missing 27 with injury. He was aggressive offensively to start, driving for a pair of free throws and hitting a jump shot. Though his specialty is his defense with his size. The Bulls got back within 71-63 midway through the quarter on a Wade back door slam dunk on a pass from Butler. But the Bulls could not catch the Pacers as George and C.J. Miles made threes and the Pacers went into the fourth quarter leading 84-73. Rondo didn’t get back in as Jerian Grant came in to relieve Carter-Williams. Nikola Mirotic finally broke out after missing seven straight threes and hit two. Felicio had back to back slam dunks, one on a follow and another on a Wade lob and the Bulls tied the game at 95 with 5:50 left. But George emerged again for the Pacers, scoring on a jumper and a drive to give Indiana a 102-99 lead with 2:52 left. Indiana effectively closed it out with the four-point play with 1:06 left in the game for a 109-101 lead.