For the second time this season, the Pacers and Bulls went down to the final possession in Chicago. And for the second time, the Pacers came out on the wrong end of a thrilling finish when the refs swallowed their whistles on a last-second shot attempt by Paul George, as Indiana (18-13) fell to Chicago (18-12) in overtime, 102-100.
Back on Nov. 16, George had a potential game-winning jumper blocked by Jimmy Butler at the buzzer in a 96-95 loss, though he thought he should have drawn a foul on the shot.
This time, Chase Budinger threw a lob to George on an inbounds play with the Pacers trailing by two with 1.2 seconds left. George's tip grazed off the rim as Butler contested the shot. Though there was contact between George and Butler in mid-air, there was no foul called, much to the dismay of an irate Frank Vogel.
Chicago had scored the first seven points in the extra period, but Indiana scored four straight after that and had the ball down three with a little over a minute remaining. Lavoy Allen tried to find George Hill in the corner for a three that would have tied the game once again, but Taj Gibson stole the ball and Aaron Brooks knocked down a step-back jumper on the other end to make it a two-possession game with 58.7 seconds to play.
After Solomon Hill knocked down two free throws to make it 100-97, the Pacers got a second chance to tie the game after Brooks threw the ball away on the ensuing possession.
Indiana swung the ball around the perimeter before Monta Ellis launched a 3-pointer from the right corner. Ellis' shot missed, but Hill came up with a spectacular rebound and dished right back to Ellis, who this time buried the shot to tie the game with just 3.7 ticks left on the clock.
Ellis' heroics were quickly rendered moot, however, as the Bulls drew up an excellent play on the ensuing inbounds. Pau Gasol caught the ball in the high post and tossed a lob to Butler, who beat George to the basket to tip in what would prove to be the winning shot.
"It was a great play, perfectly executed by a great passer and a great lob threat," Vogel told the media after the game. "Give them credit. Heck of a play."
George Hill led five Pacers in double figures with 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting and seven rebounds. George added 19 points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Butler had 28 points for the Bulls, but it was Aaron Brooks who led all scorers, finishing with a season-high 29 points off the bench on 11-of-20 shooting.
The Bulls led by 10 at halftime and then scored the first four points of the third quarter to push their lead to 14. But the Pacers immediately responded, reeling off a 19-4 run over the next six minutes to surge back in front.
The two teams traded punches into the fourth quarter and Chicago actually led 75-70 with 8:02 to play when Indiana went on another spurt. George hit two 3-pointers as the Blue & Gold scored 12 unanswered points to go in front by seven.
But the Bulls had a run of their own in them. Chicago reeled off a 9-2 run that culminated with a 3-pointer from Butler bouncing in with 35.9 seconds left to tie the game at 89.
Vogel called a quick timeout after Butler's basket and drew up a play that put the ball in the hands of veteran guard Ellis. Ellis took the ensuing inbound and drove straight to the hole for a layup that put Indiana back in front with 31.3 seconds to play.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg followed suit, taking a timeout of his own and then giving the ball to Butler, who went right to the rim to tie the game once again with 25 seconds left.
With just a one-second differential between the game clock and the shot clock, the Pacers tried to hold for the last shot. They got a look, but Ellis' deep 3-pointer missed left as the buzzer sounded.
Despite the loss, Pacers fans were no doubt encouraged by the play of rookie center Myles Turner. Returning to the court for the first time since fracturing his left thumb on Nov. 11 in Boston, Turner had eight points, five rebounds, and three blocks in 21:30.
""He looked good," Vogel said. "He impacted the game with some shot-blocking, knocked down some jumpers. He looked a little rusty — not just offensively but defensively — which is fully to be expected, but the kid played with a lot of heart."
Turner's role became more important when starting center Ian Mahinmi left the game in the third quarter with a sore left knee. Indiana was already without backup big man Jordan Hill, who had dental work done on his wisdom tooth on Wednesday, and second-leading scorer C.J. Miles, sitting out his second straight game with a sore lower back.
The Bulls played without starting point guard and former MVP Derrick Rose, who was a late scratch due to hamstring tendinitis.
The Blue & Gold don't even have 24 hours to get over this loss, as they return to action at 6:00 PM on Thursday night, hosting another Central Division rival, the Milwaukee Bucks.
Inside the Numbers
The Pacers' .381 field goal percentage was their worst all season. Indiana's previous season low came on Nov. 4 against Boston, when they connected on just 38.5 percent of their shots.
Led by Brooks, the Bulls finished with 52 bench points, the second straight game and fifth time this season that Chicago's reserves scored 50 or more.
Indiana forced Chicago into 22 turnovers on the evening, the third straight game a Pacers opponent has had exactly 22 giveaways. The Pacers had just 13 turnovers themselves.
Both Paul George and George Hill matched their season highs with four steals on the night.
One player from each team recorded a double-double. Pacers forward Lavoy Allen notched his second of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while Gasol picked up his 16th with 13 points and 11 boards.
Ellis finished with 13 points and a team-high five assists. Rodney Stuckey also had 13 points for the Pacers off the bench.
You Can Quote Me On That
"I think it was probably a broken play. After Jimmy didn’t get it he kept pursuing the play. Pau [Gasol] is a veteran in this league and very experienced that comes from playing with a guy like Kobe. Jimmy [Butler] just has that athleticism, and they just connected on a great play." -George on Butler's winning basket
"That’s on Pau. A smart player. A great player. He could have shot it but he made the pass. That basket should be given to him." -Butler on the winning play
"He was really aggressive taking the ball to the basket. Paul George is one of the best wing defenders in the league. For Jimmy to get aggressive and find a way to get by him and finish at the rim after struggling all night, that was a very big play." -Hoiberg on Butler
"We played good for most periods. In the second quarter we didn’t play well and didn’t respect [Aaron] Brooks like we should have. However, we did play great in the second half." -Vogel
"Late in the game Jimmy made some plays down the stretch. We tip our hats to them. They played a full game and made some big plays in overtime." -George
Stat of the Night
The Pacers and Bulls have had a lot of great battles over the years, but Wednesday's game was just the fifth time in 175 regular season meetings that the two teams went to overtime.
- The Pacers are now 0-2 on the year in overtime games. Their other overtime loss came on Dec. 5 in Utah, 122-119.
- The official word from the Pacers medical staff was that Mahinmi has a sore left knee. He will be re-evaluated on Thursday in Indianapolis.
- Curiously, the Pacers are 0-5 on the year when George Hill leads the team in scoring.
The Pacers return home to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host another divisional opponent, the Milwaukee Bucks, on New Year's Eve at 6:00 PM. Until the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, you can get tickets to this and all other remaining home games with zero online ticket fees, thanks to FOX Sports Indiana. Find Tickets »