Better late than never, the Indiana Pacers keyed up some much needed offense late to get them a needed win over the Chicago Bulls. The Pacers were good enough to close this game out defensively, but halfway through the fourth, the Pacers trailed 86-85, highlighting the issues offensively.
Having only 85 points with six minutes remaining was its own issue, but it was also the first time all night the Pacers had trailed. The offensive struggles weren’t only display early when Indiana finally got off to a quick start, leading 18-7 halfway through the opening quarter. They pushed that advantage to 16 early in the second, getting some nice play from the second unit and topical help from T.J. Leaf on the offensive glass.
The Pacers led 45-34 with four minutes left in the half when one of the great basketball oddities took place. Myles Turner blocked the Bulls at the rim on their next four possessions, but each time, Chicago was there to follow-up with a layup. The failure to box out Turner’s man resulted in visible frustration from Turner, but also allowed the Bulls to cut the lead to five as the half wound down.
Instead of playing the demoralizing role Turner’s blocks typically do, the ability to score off of them, in addition to forcing the Pacers offense into a slough allowed them to tie the game early in the third on a 9-0. Robin Lopez was the catalyst for Chicago in the third, scoring 12 of his 20 in the quarter, keeping the Bulls within reach whenever Indiana would manage to make it a two possession game.
Despite this, the Pacers never allowed Chicago to take the lead, holding them off until Zach LaVine threw down a dunk to give the Bulls the 86-85 lead. Indiana forced turnovers on Chicago’s next two possessions, eventually setting up Bojan Bogdanovic at the free throw to regain the lead.
Shortly thereafter, Darren Collison dished to Bogdanovic, a pass just beating a Lauri Markkanen gamble, allowing Bogdanovic to spin into a wide open three, pushing the lead to four.
Big threes have put the good guys back on top. pic.twitter.com/paEhBv3N9f— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) March 6, 2019
Collison made a three of his own on the ensuing Pacers’ possession, followed by a nice turn of events when Lopez blocked Bogdanovic, but he recovered the miss, setting up Turner for a dunk that capped a 10-0 run. That run helped cap the win, setting up the Pacers in the positive before heading into their death stretch.
The Pacers were led on the night by Bogdanovic and Collison, the two combining for 49 points on 7-10 shooting from three point range. They were on point all night scoring, which was a necessity given the troubles Indiana had getting into their offense, making assists an absolute premium.
On the night, the Pacers had just 19 assists, marking tonight their first win of the year when they’ve dished less than 20. Thaddeus Young actually led the way for Indiana with six, pairing nicely with his 11 point and 10 rebound double double, but he found Wesley Matthews on all four of his field goals.
Turner had a career night in terms of blocks, finishing with seven. Even still, five of those turned into points for the Bulls and Turner struggled with shooting the ball (11 points on 3-11 shooting) and in limiting the effectiveness of Lopez in the post. Turner did lead the Pacers with 11 rebounds, helping them to winning the rebounding battle for the first time without Domantas Sabonis despite allowing 15 offensive rebounds.
The second unit provided good minutes in the first half, pushing the Indiana lead to a game high 16 in the second quarter led by Tyreke Evans with eight. In terms of contributions, the second unit was limited from there due to minutes, led by Cory Joseph with 22. Kyle O’Quinn played just 11 minutes after heading to the bench early with foul trouble, but was active in his second half run.
With the win, the Pacers held serve for the third seed, matching Philadelphia in the win column, but also clinched their fourth straight winning season, moving to 42-23. The win was big to not only keep pace with the 76ers, but also in being able to take care of business at home.
From here, things get much, much more difficult. They play 15 of 16 against playoff opponents, beginning against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday. Not only will the schedule difficult on its own, but much of it will be road heavy to boot. The game at Milwaukee will be part of an 11-game stretch where eight games will be away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse.