Indiana's pace is too much in Bulls loss, 125-86
The Bulls fell behind early and stayed flat to drop to 14-26 on the regular season
I remember Kevin Loughery walking into the Bulls locker room after a loss like Saturday's Bulls 125-86 domination by the Indiana Pacers — Loughery's Bulls had plenty of them — and without saying anything flushing the toilet.
The message was clear: This one stunk and all we can do is feel some relief and walk away.
You could hear the whoosh with this one like a jet engine after what the Bulls left in Indianapolis.
"They brought the fight to us tonight," said Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg. "They got into us right away. We didn't handle it well. We had 11 first half turnovers. Just look at the points in the paint 46-36, second chance (points) 19-4, fast break (points) 17-9; that's all you really need to know about tonight. They came out and just laid the wood to us from start to finish."
There was some talk about the Bulls' early morning arrival after the Friday night 127-124 win in Dallas, though it was a ghost plane that landed in Indianapolis. There wasn't anyone who really got off for the Bulls.
Two-game, back to back trip. Check. Got a win in Dallas. Check. Hey, why are we stopping in Indianapolis?
It was predictable enough as these things go, though they still charge the customers the same.
The Pacers with star Victor Oladipo returning from knee problems hadn't played since Wednesday. The Bulls were finishing their fifth game in seven days, the eighth in 12 days, their 12th in 20 days, the 40th in....
You get the idea.
"These games have happened with every team that I have ever been on," said Robin Lopez, who always talks to reporters when the team gets beaten badly because, well, he's a mensch. "As long as we don't make a pattern of this. And I don't think we will because we don't have the type of team to do that. They just were more physical and jumped on us from the beginning."
The Bulls played pretty much like a team satisfied to get a road split during this rugged part of the schedule. They gave it a go for a few minutes, Lopez with 10 points converting three consecutive pick and rolls with sweet passes from Kris Dunn, who finished with eight points and eight assists. Hey, that still meant he is averaging 20 points the last two games.
"You can't use that (schedule) as an excuse," said Hoiberg. "Every team goes through this. You still have to bring the effort."
The Bulls got a 17-15 lead five minutes into the first quarter on a Denzel Valentine three. He and Lauri Markkanen had 13 points and Bobby Portis with some key baskets after the Bulls trailed by 41 in the fourth quarter led with 15 points. Consider that Jerian Grant shot zero for 11 in less than 20 minutes and was tied for the second best plus/minus. Well minus, anyway.
Soon after that, Oladipo among his five first quarter steals made three on consecutive possessions, the Bulls lollygagging their passes and Oladipo and the Pacers breaking out for scores. Domantas Sabonis grabbed an offensive rebound and scored among four admiring Bulls and it was 31-19 Indiana. Oladipo would finish with 23 points in 23 minutes and Sabonis with 22. The Pacers won three of four to end the season series between the team.
Wait, you know everyone makes a run in the NBA, right? The Bulls' came just after that, seven straight points to close the first quarter trailing 31-26.
"We closed the quarter well, cut it to five and then the second quarter we were just awful," Hoiberg lamented, also watching assistant Jim Boylen and Lopez get called for technical fouls. "The movement wasn't there. Things that had made us a successful team we didn't do tonight. Again, give them credit."
The Pacers were ready, coming off five straight losses and going back above .500 at 20-19. The Bulls are 14-26.
Apparently having a copy of the Bulls schedule as well, the Pacers came out pressuring to half court, trapping and running, making the Bulls work that much more as they could sense they were hoping to have that much less to do.
After 12 minutes, it was 31-26 Indiana.
After 18 minutes, it was 48-28 Indiana.
In the spirit of the Indianapolis 500, the Bulls were the pace car and the Pacers were A.J. Foyt. No restart for this one. The Bulls were the ones crying over spilt milk.
"Especially at the defensive end we struggled today," agreed Nikola Mirotic, who vomited after Friday's game, something of a harbinger for Indianapolis. "Our communication was terrible. We didn't have much energy today; they played much harder than us. But we don't need to lose our confidence. We've been playing better lately. We need to put this behind us, focus on the next game and just stick together."
The Pacers led 64-37 at halftime and no one really saw that truck coming. That was a four of 22 shooting second quarter for the Bulls and zero for eight on threes, the reserves collapsing in a heap which, actually, was on top of the heap of starters. Dunn had four first quarter turnovers. Justin Holiday finished one of nine on threes after making 11 of 15 threes the last two games. It was one of your typical 33-11 second quarters.
And then, as Bill Murray said in the Stripes movie, depression set in.
The Pacers throttled it up to a 37-point third quarter lead with a pair of threes from Damien Wilkins, who hadn't played in the NBA for four years. To suggest this game looked like the Bulls hadn't is a cheap shot. The Bulls would have welcomed just about any shot that was accurate.
The Pacers led 101-67 after three quarters, topping out at 116-75 with T.J. Leaf doing poster dunks on Bulls players and the only suspense left whether Grant could make a shot. He kept trying, a pullup three bounding off the rim with 29 seconds left, fortunately not injuring anyone, as the last shot of the game.
Who wants to go to Indianapolis in January, anyway?
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.