Bulls fall to Indiana despite a career high from Shaq Harrison

Shaq Harrison stepped up scoring a career-high, but it wasn't enough as the Bulls fall at home to Indiana.

Shaq gave it all he had, and still it wasn't enough for the Bulls Friday in a 108-102 loss to the Indiana Pacers.

Which, of course, reminds me of the time in Philadelphia when Charles Barkley was begging management for help. Finally, it came. "We got Shack," Barkley was informed and thus ecstatic. Until he learned it was the late journeyman big man Charles Shackleford, known for declaring that he could score with either hand because, you know, he was amphibious. So was he ignorant or just apathetic? Supposedly he didn't know and didn't care.

C'mon, smile. We've got to laugh these days with the Bulls or we're going to start crying.

It was at least worth a smile Friday as rookie Coby White continued to excel with a game-high 26 points and all-time good guy Shaquille "Shaq" Harrison set a career-high with 25 points.

"I put in hard work over the summer and in the season, and it's good to see it translate to the game," said Harrison.

Is there a Most Improved Player of the Month award?

The 6-4 Harrison was undrafted and spent two years in the G-league. It's his second season as a marginal rotation player for the Bulls with a career three-point shooting percentage of 27.7 percent and averaging 5.9 playing in about half the games.

So he just tries to make the most of his chances.

"That's been my life," said Harrison, who turned down a football scholarship to Kansas to play basketball at Tulsa. "I was undrafted, had only a couple of offers out of high school. I'm always the last guy they're looking at. I know I have to make an impression in the one opportunity or chance I get. It's nothing unusual or new for me. I take pride in that. A lot of guys can't do that."

Or what Harrison has done lately. In the three games in March with Zach LaVine recovering from a quad injury, Harrison is averaging 14.7 points on 53 percent shooting and eight of 10 on threes after making five of six Friday. Unfortunately, the rest of the Bulls made four of their 32 three-point attempts.

It was one of those games when the Bulls shot 65 percent: 41 percent from the field and 24 percent on threes.

C'mon, a grin?

The Bulls record fell to 21-42, their 12th loss in the last 14 games as they wait for injured Zach LaVine. Kris Dunn and Luke Kornet are out for the season and Chandler Hutchison still is out with a shoulder problem. Though the Pacers were missing regulars T.J. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, Doug McDermott, and Jeremy Lamb. But with the returning-from-injury Bulls working their way back—Lauri Markkanen with three points on one of 10 shooting, Wendell Carter Jr. with eight points and Otto Porter Jr. with six points—the Bulls fell behind 16 at halftime and were still trailing by 17 after three when they made a familiar fourth-quarter run to within six before Indiana made free throws.

The Pacers, 38-25, got 24 points and 12 rebounds from All-Star Domantas Sabonis. Victor Oladipo had 16 points and former Windy City Bull JaKarr Sampson came off the bench for 14 points. Denzel Valentine added 13 points for the Bulls.

"For us to get down and come back is a credit to us," said Harrison. "We kept fighting, we kept throwing punches. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win, but you have to be somewhat proud of a team that continues to fight when you are down 23 points."

There's been that as the Bulls continue to make things, at least, interesting if not exactly ultimately satisfying.

They were no match inside for Sabonis and Myles Turner, and Carter in his fourth game after missing six weeks with an ankle injury accepted blame.

"It's been kind of tough as an individual," Carter acknowledged. ‘My legs have been kind of heavy; it makes me a liability sometimes on the defensive end. I have to be patient and keep working hard. It's improved, but nowhere near where I want to be before I got injured."

The Bulls are laboring through what coach Jim Boylen likened to another training camp with players returning from long term absences. Porter had a big first game but has shot four of 18 since then. Markkanen came back Wednesday to shoot six of 10 and then, perhaps predictably, missed nine of 10 Friday and all five three-point attempts.

"You can try and do conditioning and stuff like that, but the game is different," said Markkanen. "We are doing a little bit shorter stints on the court. I played like four or five minutes at a time. My legs were a little tired, but I felt better than last game, it's just game by game, trying to get better. I'm not worried about the shooting; it's part of the process."

So the Bulls were a step or so (or more) slower, falling behind 29-23 after one quarter after a positive 10-2 start and then doomed by a Pacers' 17-4 close to the first half. Indiana then opened the third quarter 11-4 to take a 73-50 lead that the Bulls finally attacked in the fourth quarter. There was a 12-2 run with eight straight Harrison points. And then a remarkable lost opportunity when the Bulls got four offensive rebounds on one possession only to watch Valentine miss two shots, Thaddeus Young one and White another two, five misses in one 40-second possession. The Bulls with 3:40 left in the game and trailing 101-92 forced three more empty Pacers possessions. But they also went dry their next three possessions, giving them little time to make it more interesting.

Bulls vs. Pacers Recap

"I give our guys credit for hanging on," said Boylen. "I don't think we played well; I thought we tried. Again, I think we're in this moment where we're working guys back in and getting used to playing with each other again and kind of fighting through it. It's almost like we're in preseason with some of these lineups and situations and that's nobody's fault; it is what it is. But it's difficult. Wendell is going through that, Lau is going through that, Otto is going through that. But we need those guys to play. We need them to get into the game and get their sea legs back; that's where we are at. "

Other than Harrison's play, which also included four assists, three steals, and two blocks, was the continued excellence of White. He's still coming off the bench, though he played almost 38 minutes as the Bulls' most reliable scorer without LaVine. White is averaging 27.7 the last seven games and shooting 46 percent on threes while making more than four per game. You can begin to start to dream what that might look like the way LaVine has scored this season.

Perhaps that will mean a turnaround. Like Shack supposedly once said, one of those 360s.