With just under 46 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Domantas Sabonis threw down a dunk to put the Indiana Pacers up 102-96. It had been a frustrating road to getting that six point lead, one they had been simply maintaining for about two and a half minutes. The Pacers spent most of the game down thanks to a sluggish start, and never quite locked in on either side of the ball to put the Bulls away.
The swings in Indiana’s favor never quite took shape, even as Victor Oladipo scored 10 straight in the third to push them up by six. They lost that lead, trailing into the fourth, and fell behind by as many as five in the final quarter. Doug McDermott and Thaddeus Young each had big buckets with the Pacers down five to flip the scoreboard on an 11-3 run.
The Pacers managed to push that lead to six with 3:22 to go, but the Bulls refused to go away, which made Sabonis scoring the next six so big: if the Pacers weren’t going to be able to close the door on the Bulls, they could at least run out the clock by matching their output. That seemed good enough when Kris Dunn knocked in a three to cut the lead in half with 27 seconds left.
Out of timeouts, the Bulls sent Oladipo to the line, where he hit both. Back down the floor, Zach LaVine hit a three of his own to bring the score within two. On the inbounds, Oladipo got the ball to Bojan Bogdanovic, who needed to hit both to keep the game at two possessions. Unfortunately, his own frustrating night boiled over at the line, as he split the trip, allowing the Bulls to come back down the floor and improbably tie the game on another LaVine three, sending the Pacers to their first overtime game of the year.
In the extra period, the Pacers struck verse, but their inability to stop Chicago quickly put them behind as Lauri Markkanen hit a pair of shots to put the Bulls up 109-107. Another split trip at the line (this time by Oladipo) put the Pacers in real trouble as Chicago extended the lead to three with 1:12 to go. Not to mention, Oladipo was smothered on the inbounds, forcing a precarious jump ball situation.
On the jump, Dunn won the tip, but managed to tip it to Darren Collison, who got the ball back to Oladipo. Oladipo showed no hesitation in pulling up for a big time three pointer, tying the game at 113-all. Indiana finally got their defensive stop on the other end, forcing LaVine into a traveling violation, leading Oladipo to set up Myles Turner for the go-ahead three pointer with 30 seconds left.
Back on the other end, the Bulls continued to make plays, as Markannen pulled up late in the shot clock, well contested, to drill an ice cold three to tie the game up again with 10 seconds remaining. The Pacers advanced the ball on their final timeout, Oladipo avoided an over and back, gathered possession, and cashed out for the game winner.
Oladipo drills the winner in OT pic.twitter.com/REFEsD8cuS— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 5, 2019
Of course, given how the game had gone late, the 0.3 Oladipo left on the clock was almost too much. On the opposite end, LaVine’s corner three went, but went a fraction late while he had also stepped out of bounds. The Pacers escaped with a thrilling 119-116 win and will attempt to get out of the United Center without the Bulls somehow splashing some more threes on them.
Oladipo, the freshly crowned King of R&B, tied his season high with 36 points, going 14-28 from the floor. Oladipo was a much higher volume player than he had been in recent games, but given the overall frustration from the Pacers on the night, Oladipo tried to do his part to carry them in the face of big nights from both LaVine and Markkanen in particular.
The frustration was evident with Bogdanovic in particular, who had 13, but did so on 5-15 shooting, picking up a rare tech. Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans all shot under 50% themselves, with the bench guards in particular clanking with a purpose. The high volume Oladipo did struggle from three point range at 4-13, but it’s become no surprise just how much confidence he brings to the closing seconds of games, hitting back-to-back threes (not to mention one of his four assists to Turner) to seal the win.
Turner’s broken nose couldn’t have come at a worse time for his confident play. With a facemask, he played understandably tentative at times, finishing with just eight points and two rebounds, also committing four fouls while failing to record a block for the first time this season and ended up on the wrong end of a Dunn poster in overtime. Despite finding himself in the midst of a tough game, he still stepped up for what Oladipo called the most important shot of the game, drilling the go-ahead three with 30 seconds in overtime, something that was good from the second he released it.
Fortunately for the Pacers, their depth up front grants them flexibility to overcome a down statistical game from Turner, with Sabonis stepping up off the bench for 23 points and 12 rebounds. Sabonis did so on 9-13 shooting, getting absolutely no resistance from Chicago defensively, leading the Pacers to 70 points in the paint. Thaddeus Young as well brought a lot with his 16 points and five rebounds, making plays outside of the box score to help secure the win.
The duo, along with the five fourth quarter points from McDermott were huge in at least in giving Indiana their fourth quarter lead and what really should have been enough to close out the win in regulation had Indiana been better at the line or had Chicago not torched the nets in an unbelievable fashion. Indiana did find themselves in this situation largely because of their defense.
The Bulls became just the fourth team to shoot over 50% on the Pacers this season, and outside of timely three point shooting, they largely did so inside similar to the Pacers, scoring 60 points themselves in the paint. Indiana had their shaky offense exposed for much of the game because of their defense on the night.
They mustered up just enough on the offensive end to win their sixth straight, but it’s hardly a recipe for success when the Pacers take on tougher opponents, like the one they’ll face on Sunday, the Toronto Raptors. They’ll have an opportunity to exact revenge after stumbling late in Toronto two and a half weeks ago, this time with their winning streak intact.