Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 8:00 PM ET at United Center
Pacers games have been following a familiar script early into the 2022-23 season: the Blue & Gold fall into an early hole, mount an inspired second-half charge, but ultimately come up short.
That was the case again on Wednesday night in Chicago, where Indiana (1-4) trailed by as many as 24 in the first half, climbed within four during a 36-point third quarter, but couldn't get over the hump, dropping a divisional battle to the Bulls (3-2), 125-109.
Buddy Hield played a pivotal role in the Blue & Gold's third quarter surge and finished with a season-high 25 points and went 7-for-12 from 3-point range for Indiana.
Tyrese Haliburton added his fourth straight double-double in the loss, tallying 17 points and 11 assists.
But it wasn't enough for the Pacers to overcome another large deficit. Indiana surrendered 76 points in the first half, digging a hole that proved to be too deep to climb out of.
"We've got to decide that we're going to start games stronger, with more presence, with more disposition," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "That we're going to move the ball better. That's really where we are as a team right now."
Though they trailed 82-59 a minute into the third quarter, the Pacers got hot from beyond the arc in the frame. Third-year forward Jalen Smith knocked down three triples over a minute-and-a-half span, then Hield added a three of his own to pull Indiana within 12 with 7:24 remaining in the frame.
Patrick Williams answered with a triple of his own, but Hield came right back and buried two more treys to get Indiana within single digits for the first time since the six-minute mark of the first quarter.
"In the second half, he moved great," Carlisle said. "He was moving the ball, cutting, creating a lot of things, and consequently, he was getting open for shots. And he got into a groove, got into one of those Buddy Hield grooves where he made four or five threes."
The Pacers continued their climb back, inching closer on another three -- this time from Haliburton -- and eventually trimming the deficit to 95-91 following two Hield free throws with 2:51 remaining.
But the Bulls answered with eight straight points -- including three consecutive dunks -- to stop the rally. Haliburton's layup with 32.1 seconds left provided the final points of the quarter and made it 103-93 entering the final frame.
Bennedict Mathurin drew a foul and made both free throws to open the scoring in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls scored the next nine on three 3-pointers -- the first two by Goran Dragic and the third by Zach LaVine -- to extend their lead back to 15.
The Blue & Gold never seriously threatened the rest of the way, as Chicago comfortably coasted to victory.
Smith finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, and two blocks for Indiana. Mathurin finished with 15 points and four assists off the bench, while fellow reserve Chris Duarte scored 12.
Playing his first regular season game in nine months, Myles Turner connected with Aaron Nesmith for a dunk on the first possession of Wednesday's game, then Hield buried a three on Indiana's next trip down the floor to open up an early 5-0 Pacers lead. But Chicago scored on its next six possessions and hit four 3-pointers over that stretch to surge ahead, 16-8.
The Bulls stayed hot throughout the opening frame, with Nikola Vucevic scoring 11 points and LaVine adding nine. Chicago led by as many as 15 in the first quarter and took a 38-27 advantage into the second. That made the Pacers the first team in NBA history to trail by 10 or more points after the first quarter in each of their first give games.
The hosts extended their lead at the start of the ensuing period. Three straight Andre Drummond dunks, two LaVine free throws, and an Alex Caruso three added up to an 11-0 Bulls run that doubled the margin to 22.
Duarte showed some encouraging signs in the second quarter. The 25-year-old Dominican had been a slump to start the season, failing to score in double figures in any of his first four games, but he seemingly started to break out against the Bulls. Duarte scored 10 of 12 points for Indiana over a three-minute stretch in the second quarter.
A Hield 3-pointer and Haliburton layup following Duarte's outburst trimmed Indiana's deficit to 17, but two LaVine free throws in the closing second gave Chicago a 76-57 lead at the intermission.
LaVine led all scorers with 28 points, going 6-for-8 from 3-point range and 10-for-12 from the free throw line, and also registered six rebounds and five assists. DeMar DeRozan added 17 points and six assists, while Vucevic finished with 14 points, seven boards, and four assists.
Indiana will continue its five-game road trip on Friday night in Washington before closing out the trip with a pair of games in Brooklyn on Saturday and Monday.
Inside the Numbers
Hield made seven 3-pointers for the 26th time in his career and the second time as a Pacer. He made eight threes for Indiana against Milwaukee last season on Feb. 15.
Smith has now scored 15 or more points in four of five games this season and matched his career high with three 3-pointers.
Despite an off shooting night, Mathurin managed to score at least 15 points for the fifth straight game to open his NBA career. The rookie went just 3-for-11 from the field but got to the foul line and went 9-for-10 from the charity stripe.
Both teams made 16 3-pointers on Wednesday, but the Bulls were more efficient. Chicago went 16-for-30 (53.3 percent), while the Pacers were 16-for-41 (39 percent).
Indiana committed a season-high 20 turnovers in the loss.
You Can Quote Me On That
"He just plays with a great spirit, great energy...and he's got the utmost confidence (of anyone) you'll ever meet. If he sees one going in, he feels like the next five, six, seven are going in. It's just who he is." -Haliburton on Hield when he gets hot
"I can change lineups all day long. Everybody's going to be clamoring for our young guys to play all the minutes and we're not there. We've got good veteran players that need to help lead this team and need to help us compete better at the beginning of games." -Carlisle on getting off to better starts
"We've got to figure it out, because our third quarters are so much better than our first quarters." -Haliburton
"It's really difficult to come back after a week of not playing...There was the expected rust in the first game, but I thought he did a lot of great things. I thought he was a real presence around the basket. He had (four) blocked shots. That's world-class. He's going to help us a lot." -Carlisle on Turner's return
"I haven't played basketball at this level since January. The game was moving a little fast, my mind was a little fast and faster than my body. I think it's going to take some time for me to get that rhythm back, but that's what reps are for....I've been working very hard for this moment, just to get back here and play NBA basketball again. I'm in a good spot mentally." -Turner on being back on the court
"Just play with confidence. That's what this league is, a confidence league. And just finding my spots. Not forcing anything, not rushing anything, and just taking my time." -Smith on his strong start to the season offensively
Stat of the Night
The Pacers allowed 38 points in both the first and second quarters, but limited Chicago to just 48 total points after halftime -- 27 points in the third quarter and 21 in the fourth.
- The Bulls have won the last four games with Indiana dating back to last season.
- Turner played in a regular season game for the first time since Jan. 14. He missed the last 39 games of last season with a foot injury, then missed the first four this season after spraining his left ankle prior to last Wednesday's season opener. The eighth-year center finished with five points, six rebounds, and four blocks in 24 minutes.
- DeRozan came up seven points shy of reaching 20,000 in his career. When he reaches the milestone, he will be just the seventh player currently on an NBA roster to achieve the feat, joining LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and Stephen Curry.
Indiana travels to Washington, where the Blue & Gold will hope to avenge an opening night loss to the Wizards. The Pacers square off against Bradley Beal and company on Friday, Oct. 28 at 7:30 PM ET.
After a five-game road trip, the Pacers will return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse to host Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets >>