Bulls come up flat in loss to Pacers

The Bulls Friday never could find their pace and lost 104-92 to the Indiana Pacers.

The Bulls fell to 9-5 and behind the 10-5 Pacers in the Eastern Conference led by the 12-4 Cleveland Cavaliers. The loss ended the Bulls road trip with a 2-2 record. They return to the United Center Monday to play the San Antonio Spurs.

The Bulls were led by Nikola Mirotic with 25 points. Jimmy Butler had 16 points and Derrick Rose 10, but the two guards combined to shoot eight for 26. Pau Gasol shot four of 16 as the Bulls were 34.8 percent overall. The Pacers had a 21-5 edge in fast break points and a 20-10 margin in points off turnovers.

The Bulls came out like they were closing 10 days on the road, though they did have a few hours back home for Thanksgiving in this unusual road trip. It was just three games in the Western Conference over eight days, an arrival back in Chicago about 5 a.m. and then back out to Indiana about 24 hours later. The languor seemed apparent as after a 7-2 Bulls start, the Pacers scored 11 straight, mostly on Bulls turnovers and Pacers’ runouts and offensive rebound scores for a 24-12 Pacers lead. Indiana went on to lead 30-18 after the first quarter with seven Bulls turnovers.

Indiana even not shooting well on threes despite coming in leading the league, sped out to a 41-24 lead before a Bulls group with Mirotic, Kirk Hinrich and E’Twaun Moore showed some enthusiasm and got the Bulls within 51-42 at halftime. Mirotic had 12 at halftime, though the Pacers’ C.J. Miles had 16. Starters Rose, Butler and Tony Snell combined to shoot three of 17 in the first half and were the three leaders in greatest minus when on the floor. The Bulls began to climb back into the game in the third quarter with aggressive defense that slowed the Pacers’ running and movement play.

The Bulls then relied on the offensive play of Mirotic, who was running the break and taking advantage of mismatches inside to add 11 points in the third quarter for 23 after three; no other Bulls player had scored in double figures. The Bulls pulled within 66-62 late in the quarter before the Pacers gathered and went into the fourth quarter leading the Bulls 72-63. Rose and Butler made threes early in the fourth to give some hope to the Bulls offense. Though word came in that Doug McDermott after zero for four in six first half minutes would not return with an illness. Indiana’s Paul George then got going again with a pair of threes and drawing contact for fouls and it proved too much for the Bulls to overcome in a mostly frustrating effort. The Bulls late intentionally fouled Ian Mahinmi; he made seven of 10. The Bulls also lost Kirk Hinrich late with a hip injury trying to get over a screen. Paul George had 33 for Indiana.