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Bulls, 113, Pacers 107: Bench Mobbed

The Indiana Pacers stuck to the script tonight giving the home fans a fabulous effort, plenty of buckets to cheer about, and a late game let down ending with a 113-107 loss to the Chicago Bulls.

I might be losing my mind, but I'm starting to enjoy these games. Let's face it, this Pacer crew is short-handed to say the least and at this point, losses are smoothed over by looking at the standings and calculating the current draft position (8th, in case you're wondering).

Yet, night after night, whoever is available for the Pacers plays like mad and refuses to give up. Games like tonight have become so common, I could've described it perfectly before it happened. As it actually happened, the game was tied at 27 after 1Q, then the Pacers were up 57-56 at the half. The Pacers ran out to an 11-point after the half, but the Bulls clawed back to tie it up at 82 after three. Stop. Yeah, we're talking 82-82 after three. The ball was moving up and down the court people, although the score masks some of the ugliness in this game. Too many fouls, lots of free throws, not exactly Phoenix and Golden State. Still, plenty of hard fought action to entertain.

At this point in the game, I'm happy. I know all too well what's coming in the fourth quarter. I don't need to tense up and lose my mind after the Bulls take the lead and the Pacers start offering up empty possessions in return. To paraphrase an old, basketball sage, if the outcome is inevitable, might as well sit back an enjoy it. On this night, the Pacers didn't completely fold down the stretch. They did fall behind, but scrapped to the end, keeping the game within one or two possessions until too many missed shots and free throws sealed their fate. See, it's okay, no angst. No calling out players for key misses down the stretch. We've been through that already. The big makes aren't coming so why expect it. One of these days, when things click down the stretch, we'll celebrate the surprise like crazy. But, tonight there were no surprises.

The starters provided the Pacers with plenty of good production, led by a career night from Travis Diener who finished with 22 points and 9 assists. Diener continues to develop into a reliable point guard, increasing the positives and limiting the negatives. Only two turnovers in 36 plus minutes of action tonight. Troy Murphy, is consistently producing now, as well. I'm not taling about carry-a-team-on-your-back production from Murph, but he's certainly been a positive force on the court lately. So, there are some positives to dig out from the rubble of this loss. Now, I have to mention a few things about the Bulls. They're not ready for a championship run, but they have some nice pieces and lots of them, too. Their pace of play has definitely picked up since unloading Ben Wallace and Joe Smith. Their young bigs love to stay active, so running the floor is only natural.

Also, the Bulls bench torched the Pacers for 67 points tonight. 67!!! Newly acquired Larry Hughes led the way off the pine with 29 points. Man, Hughes LOVES playing against the Pacers. While with the Cavs early in the year, Hughes nuked the Pacers off the bench for 36. I imagine Hughes sitting in the locker room in Dallas after the Bulls' loss to the Mavs on Monday, worn out from the chaos of the change and two losses in a row. Jim Boylan tells the team to put the loss behind them and get ready for the Pacers, and Hughes lifts his head and perks up his ears like a Golden Retriever hearing the treat drawer open. Pacers? We're playing the Pacers? Let's go!

Now, where did I put those Eastern Conference standings?