Despite an ever growing injury list, the Indiana Pacers continue to pick up wins, extending their current streak to three games with a nice win over the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers had to even dig deeper into their rotation tonight and were rewarded with solid performances throughout the lineup.
That included big nights off the bench from T.J. Leaf and Aaron Holiday, two players who have had extensive struggles in the opening games. Leaf led the way on the glass with both Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner out, pulling in 15 rebounds to go with 13 points, six of those coming on the offensive end. Leaf also flashed some solid play on the defensive end on a night where the Pacers held Chicago to 41.9% shooting.
Holiday meanwhile continued his shooting struggles early, but came through on a three pointer late in the third to help push him to a nine point outing. Holiday even picked up some minutes on the floor late without T.J. McConnell, hopefully trending in the right direction for his season after a rough, rough start.
The Pacers as a team looked much more relaxed, especially in the second half, after locking in for the first 24 minutes. The Pacers started the third quarter up 55-42, but weren’t able to really put a stamp on the game in the second half because the relaxed play went both ways. Where it did allow guys like Leaf and Holiday to find themselves through their mistakes, there was a real lack of focus in terms of execution for much of the half.
Fortunately for the Pacers, the Bulls didn’t seem too interested in capitalizing on Indiana’s lack of attention, stumbling just as much defensively in the second half as the Pacers did. However, the Pacers did manage to hold serve in the second half, wrapping up the 108-95 victory.
Indiana did show improvements in this game, particularly in getting to the free throw line. Entering the game, the Pacers were 29th in free throw attempts with 18.2, but reached that threshold in the first half. Jeremy Lamb led the way from the line at 9-9, using the ability to get to the line as a way to overcome his worst shooting game of the year at 1-6. He was also involved on the defensive end, blocking three shots and coming up with a steal.
With the absence of Sabonis, Nate McMillan moved both Goga Bitadze and JaKarr Sampson into the starting lineup. Sampson finished with four points in 19 minutes while Bitadze had nine points and four blocks before fouling out in his 19 minutes. Bitadze was a mystery bag much of the night, dazzling with big dunks and three pointers, but struggled with his role in the game, which led to some pretty massive breakdowns on defense.
Fortunately, the support around him was good, not only with Leaf, but with Doug McDermott, who struggled shooting, but got involved through playmaking, including some behind the back passes for good measure as part of his three assist night.
The Pacers were led in scoring by T.J. Warren, who bounced back from a bad shooting night against Cleveland with 26 points on 10-16 shooting. The behind the back pass from McDermott proved to be his only three pointer, however, as the Pacers continued to struggle from behind the arc, going just 8-26.
Malcolm Brogdon was 1-4 deep himself, but was a sustained excellence beyond that. Brogdon finished with 22 points on an efficient 9-15 shooting, dishing seven assists in the process. He did have five turnovers, leading the way for the team’s 18 total. Though they forced as many turnovers on Chicago, the Bulls were able to win the points off turnovers battle 20-15.
The Pacers move to .500 with the win over Chicago, fully rebounding from the 0-3 start. They’ve been much improved all around, but especially defensively, where they’ve allowed just 42.6% shooting over their last three after opening the season allowing almost 50%. They’ll look to extend their streak to four when they hit the road to face the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.