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Pacers final score: Bulls outlast Pacers 90-85

Aaron Brooks had 19 for Indiana, but the Pacers struggled to match wits with Chicago, falling late.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers came into the United Center on four days’ rest, but played like a team on the second night of a back-to-back, putting up minimal effort in a loss to the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers shot poorly and rebounded poorly, which contributed to loss, but in an ugly game where Chicago still gave Indiana every opportunity to win, there was no excuse for this to be anything but.

Indiana started slow, but the game really shifted in Chicago’s favor when Rajon Rondo came up with three offensive rebounds on one play, which eventually led to a corner three from Nikola Mirotic that started an 8-0 run that would put Chicago up 13 late in the first. The Bulls would lead by as many as 16, but throughout the second half, the Pacers climbed into the game on multiple occasions, but they could never get over the hump.

In the final minute, the Pacers drew to within a point at 86-85 after Paul George made his only three of the night with 45 seconds remaining. Indiana defended well on the ensuing possession, but Mirotic came up with a big two pointer as the shot clock expired to move the game to three. George missed his own three point attempt, but Thaddeus Young corralled the rebound, giving the ball to Aaron Brooks.

Brooks picked up his dribble with the clock winding down, attempting a cross court pass to C.J. Miles that was intercepted by Dwyane Wade, who threw down a game sealing dunk with just over a second remaining. It summed up Indiana’s execution in the close parts of the game as the Pacers had three opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final four times in the final six minutes of the quarter and went 0-3 with two turnovers.

Brooks’s turnover marred an otherwise team leading performance, shaking off his struggles to lead the Pacers not only in scoring, but in hustle, finishing with a team high 19 points and seven assists on 6-8 shooting with a huge block on Robin Lopez. Brooks had three threes, the only Pacer to hit multiple threes outside of Young, who had two as part of his 12 point night.

George struggled shooting the ball, but did well to set up teammates with a season high eight assists, finishing with 14 points on 6-15 shooting. He only got to the line once, in fact Brooks was the only member of the team to get to the line multiple times, going 4-4 on a night Indiana was just 8-10.

In a game where Indiana outshot Chicago slightly (42%-39%) and hit three extra threes, the free throw game ended up being the biggest difference, which Chicago shooting 20-28, affording themselves numerous opportunities to make up for their misses with the sheer number of attempts they had over the Pacers with Jimmy Butler going 9-12 on his own.

Chicago also had 16 offensive rebounds, outrebounding the Pacers by six on both the offensive end. Indiana showed very little fight or awareness on the glass. Chicago crashed the boards hard, but also played smart in going after rebounds while Indiana would often sit back and wait for the rebound to come to them.

Myles Turner had 16 points and eight rebounds and Al Jefferson had 11 points off the bench. The Pacers’ bench led the charge much of the night in keeping the Pacers in the game, thanks in large part to Brooks and Jefferson with C.J. Miles going scoreless in 25 minutes and Rodney Stuckey leaving with another injury after playing just six minutes.

Indiana drops two games below .500 for the first time all season, showing none of the fight they’ve shown in adverse situations. The Pacers drop to 4-12 on the road and will face another tough road task against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The only positive to take from tonight’s game is that they don’t have to play tomorrow, but 32 games in and 2016 drawing to a close, the Pacers need to find something if they hope to make anything out of their increasingly disappointing season.