The Indiana Pacers trailed for 47 minutes and 30 seconds before Victor Oladipo pulled up and hit a transition three that put Indiana on top of the Chicago Bulls for a late victory. Indiana was out of sorts all night, but used a 13-2 run to help trim a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to lead to the win.
Whether a trap game or simply not being prepared, it was a rough go for the Pacers. Chicago not only led for the entire game up until the final 30 seconds, but led by double figures for a majority of that time. A combination of miscues by the Pacers and timely shot making by the Bulls made it look like a lost cause as the game progressed.
Perhaps the biggest issue for the Pacers was them being a step slow in hustle plays, allowing the Bulls to capitalize on a number of loose ball opportunities. To make matters worse, when Indiana did come up with a key stop or a turnover, their awareness went in the tank with poor shot selection that led them to a season low 39 first half points.
While Indiana won the game in the final half of the fourth quarter, their treading-water comeback attempt began in the third quarter with Darren Collison scoring all 14 of his points in the third. While many of the issues in coming up with loose balls and getting key stops leaked over into the third, the Indiana offense did find some much needed footing thanks to Collison.
It was a meager victory in that quarter; just 30-28, but it was a victory the Pacers needed if only to weather Chicago’s shooting. That’s not to suggest victory looked inevitable by any stretch, especially when the Bulls extended the lead to 16 at 87-71 with 9:41 left in the game, but it was key in keeping the window open in the event Chicago remembered they were 3-19 on the season.
Even as the Pacers began to trim the lead slightly, it was still being done so in a tit-for-tat fashion; every step forward by Indiana in forcing turnovers or hitting shots was a step backward in allowing the same. After Chicago’s Paul Zipser hit a corner three as a response to an Oladipo triple, the Pacers dug in for a 13-2 run that would bring them to within two.
In that stretch, the Pacers were led by Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored seven of his 17. Bogdanovic hit three threes, but focused in defensively of all things in the fourth to help the Pacers come with some key stops late. While the defensive effort was all over the map for the Pacers for much of the night, there was some good things to take from it in the final stretch, especially from Cory Joseph, who had three steals in the fourth, leading to four of Indiana’s 19 points off turnovers on the night.
Joseph’s final steal helped push Indiana to within two, eventually leading to Oladipo’s game winning sequence:
While the shot went in, the Pacers worked the clock into their favor to set up the attempt. Oladipo had missed a wild layup in the previous possession, giving the ball back to Chicago on the rebound with about 54 seconds left. Keeping the Bulls from striking quickly, it set up the Pacers for a two-for-one opportunity after the steal.
The Pacers would’ve likely pushed for a quick shot regardless of the turnover, but the situation worked perfectly into Indiana’s favor to not only react quickly, but do so with a good look to boot. Leading up to it, the execution wasn’t perfect, but it did cap a comeback where the Pacers pushed the tempo, and found success for it, for what felt like the first time all night.
Oladipo finished with a game high 27 points, scoring 11 in the fourth, hitting two of his four threes. Oladipo also had eight rebounds and three steals, two of those coming in the final three minutes. In addition to Bogdanovic and Collison, all five starters reached double figures, including a 10-point, nine rebound night from Thaddeus Young and an 11-point, seven rebound, six assist, and four block effort from Myles Turner.
Both players shot poorly, but had stretches where they helped the Pacers inch towards the victory. It was the kind of night where Indiana struggled getting into a groove, but everyone from Oladipo to Joe Young drawing a foul in a one trillion game helped do just enough to keep them alive in the hopes of something, anything, pulling them towards the win.
While the Pacers did plenty to seize the win late, they weren’t without an opponent willing to give it to them. The Bulls had just 13 fourth quarter points after scoring 83 through three quarters. Shots quit falling, but even when they were, the one area where they did miss was at the free throw line. The Bulls went 8-16 from the line, missing both ends on three separate trips.
It was a surprise to watch the Pacers play as they did for much of the night. It had begun to feel like this Indiana team wouldn’t be one to overlook anyone on a given night, but that clearly wasn’t the case tonight. They didn’t succumb to the Chicago’s sting, but they’ll need to bring a better effort and focus when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, unless LeBron James decides to rest in Indianapolis again.
While Indiana secured a comfortable, resilient victory over the Cavs earlier in the season, that might as well have been a preseason game compared to the Cleveland team the Pacers will be facing. The Cavaliers have found a real groove, extending their winning streak to a franchise tying 13 games in a home win tonight.