The Indiana Pacers squandered a seven point fourth quarter lead, losing in overtime to Chicago Bulls in heartbreaking fashion. Indiana miscues opened opportunities for Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks to come up with huge play after huge play, erasing a five point lead in the final minute to force overtime. In overtime, Chicago built a seven point lead, but managed to hold Indiana at bay for the win.
Lavoy Allen and Monta Ellis brought Indiana back to tie the game, but a key layup from Butler gave Chicago the two point lead with 1.2 seconds. On the other end, the same play didn't benefit Indiana, as Butler got all arm, moving Paul George out of position, but that's clearly a call that's never going to be made, much less on the road.
George finished with 19 points on 7-20 shooting, but began to show some signs of life shooting the ball in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points on 3-4 shooting to help Indiana build their lead. But with George's struggles against another like player, Butler's 26 (11 coming at the free throw line) were far superior not only in total, but in how he was getting them, especially against George's defense.
So the positives of George's fourth quarter play still carry a lot of bad weight in terms of him being the MVP type player he was in November, and as the season progresses, especially in what's shaping up to be a tight Eastern Conference race (tonight's loss drops Indiana from 3rd to 6th), getting George back into the flow of the offense is going to be crucial as there really isn't much in sync between the two.
The energy of the Pacers in the third quarter brought them back from a 14-point deficit, with the same formula that got them their win over Atlanta coming to play tonight. The Pacers forced 22 turnovers, leading to 27 points, but the number could've been higher if not for Indiana's woeful 38% shooting night.
Myles Turner returned to action for the first time since November 11th, and looked solid considering. He had eight points with five rebounds and three blocks, playing an extended amount of minutes with Jordan Hill not only missing action, but Ian Mahinmi leaving with a knee bruise. That led to Lavoy Allen posting a 10 point, 12 rebound double double, with a pair of Allen jumpers helping Indiana in overtime (before coming up with a costly turnover).
Monta Ellis was just 4-19 shooting, but hit a ridiculous corner three as a second chance opportunity that put Indiana tied up, but it was George Hill who led Indiana with 20 points, hitting three threes. Rodney Stuckey also reached double figures with 13.
The Pacers were mostly able to withstand the two headed monster of Aaron Brooks (29 points) and Bobby Portis (16), but couldn't stay in front once Butler joined the fray late. Butler had 12 of his 26 in the final eight minutes of play, which is pretty much exactly what should be expected of a franchise level talent.
There are many things Indiana would like to have back, including the final lob play designed to force a second OT, but they'll have to wait until the end of March to see Chicago for the final time in the regular season. The loss drops Indiana to 18-13, but with a back-to-back tomorrow (tipping at 6 p.m. Eastern) against the Milwaukee Bucks, tired legs could help write their own narrative if Indiana isn't able to bounce back from this loss.