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Pacers can't overcome early deficit, fall late to Bulls

Indiana fell behind double figures out of the gate, but a late surge behind Paul George (26) and Monta Ellis (20) gave them a chance that fell short in a 96-95 loss to Chicago.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers began on the wrong side of a 15-2 start against the Chicago Bulls, setting up 48 minutes of comeback basketball. For most of the first three quarters, it felt as if the Pacers were fortunate to be within 20 of the Bulls, but about halfway through the third, Chicago jumped out 67-52, and it seemed as if the game was finally beginning to catch up to the perception.

But a frustrated Monta Ellis began to give life to the Pacers, drawing them to within six on an 11-2 run, with Joe Young pulling them to within two points late in the quarter. Chicago ballooned their lead back up to eight early in the fourth, but after Derrick Rose hit a three with 8:41 to put the Bulls up 88-80, Indiana stepped up defensively, slowly climbing back into the game.

The Pacers tired the game at 93-93 with 2:41, in a stretch Chicago went over seven minutes with a field goal. The Pacers had numerous chances to go up, but Jimmy Butler would break the drought with a tough jumper to put the Bulls up three. Indiana cut the deficit to one and held the ball for the final possession. Paul George took a fadeaway jumper against Butler, who got away with a foul call to help seal the 96-95 victory in Chicago's favor.

The non-call was a classic case of officials swallowing their whistle in a late game situation, one that favored Indiana earlier in the season. While frustrating, Indiana had their chances to steal this game, but failed to do so with the opportunities they had. Indiana was 16-24 from the free throw line, missing their final three attempts of the game, though in the case of Ian Mahinmi, that's more a given than anyway.

The other of those three free throws was from Paul George, who missed two on the night, either one could've ultimately shaped the outcome of the game in Indiana's favor. But despite that, he was sharp in the second half, scoring a game high 26 with seven rebounds and five assists, though he did have four turnovers. As a team, Indiana had a workable 13, but proved too much when Chicago had only eight themselves.

Monta Ellis picked up his game in the third quarter after frustrating calls sent him into an angry demeanor, scoring 20 points and dishing six assists, proving paramount in the Indiana comeback. In a night Indiana was short George Hill to a upper respiratory infection, it was important to get big minutes from Ellis, who came through despite the team falling short.

C.J. Miles pitched in with 19 points on five three pointers, including four in the first half. While Ian Mahinmi and Jordan Hill had 12 rebounds apiece, the pair totaled just nine points on 3-12 shooting. Lavoy Allen's eight points off the bench proved the biggest output of the night from a hodgepodge bench unit that featured rare minutes from Joe Young and Solomon Hill.

Young showed some things with the ball late in the third, but along with Jordan Hill, offered up concerns defensively. Solomon Hill had just four in his 13 minutes, but played better than Glenn Robinson III, who was just 1-7. The bench unit as a whole was nothing if not problematic for the most part; the five-man unit was a -6 in the 1:37 they played together to open the fourth, forcing early returns from George, Miles, and Ellis for a long stretch run.

But the poor start from the starters created the all-night situation. Despite Indiana outrebounding Chicago (50-48), winning in the paint (38-36) and shooting better from the line (66.7%-62.5%), they didn't have the horses to make up for their play early. Though frustrating, Indiana will look to get back on the winning track when they face the winless Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.