The Bulls Tuesday set the pace after a desultory first quarter and sped to a 103-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The Bulls moved to 3-4 with the last preseason game Friday in Lincoln, Neb. against Dallas. The regular season opens at home against Cleveland Oct. 27.
The Bulls were led by Aaron Brooks with 22 points. Both he and Nikola Mirotic were four of six on three pointers as the Bulls were 12 of 26 overall from three.
After trailing by 10 points much of the first quarter, the Bulls’ defense kicked in. And complemented by accurate three-point shooting and strong bench contributions, the Bulls pulled away after halftime and led by 16 points midway through the fourth quarter. Mirotic scored 15 and E’Twaun Moore 13. The Bulls got 49 points off the bench.
The Bulls went back to Pau Gasol starting at center with Mirotic, Tony Snell, Jimmy Butler and Kirk Hinrich. Although coach Fred Hoiberg said the season opener starters aren’t set, that group has started the most for now. Derrick Rose is improving but still has some double vision from his orbital surgery. He’ll start when he recovers. It was another slow, defense challenged start as the Pacers took a 34-24 lead behind a 15-point display from Paul George. Mirotic kept the Bulls close with 11 points, including three of four threes, some from almost 30 feet.
The Bulls tightened their defense with Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson starting the second quarter with a quick 12-4 run as both were strong and active inside. Tony Snell showed some life with a block against George, a fast break score and a three as the Bulls pulled ahead 48-45 at halftime. The Pacers shot 12.5 percent in the second quarter, three of 24. The Bulls’ defense continued to be better after halftime with Gibson hitting the boards hard and getting to the free throw line and Brooks squirming through the most unlikely spots. It enabled the Bulls to take a 77-69 lead after three quarters. Coach Fred Hoiberg, promising to tighten the rotation as the regular season approaches, pretty much kept to 10 players and four big men with rookie Bobby Portis sitting out.