Despite playing shorthanded, the Indiana Pacers managed to take care of business against the Chicago Bulls. Game time scratches for Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, and Doug McDermott opened up the rotation, including starting Brian Bowen II on the final day of his Two-Way Contract.
Another slow start put the Pacers down 10-2 out of the gate, but they quickly closed the gap with seven straight out of a timeout. The Pacers shot the ball well in the first quarter (and the first half as a whole), going up for good late in the quarter behind the play of Edmond Sumner and JaKarr Sampson.
Sumner in particular brought a real spark to the second unit, scoring five in the first quarter and seven more in the second as Indiana pushed their lead into double figures with two minutes in the second quarter. The Pacers made seven first half threes, including a pair from Sumner to lead by 16 at the break.
Out of the half, Indiana outscored the Bulls 8-2, eventually leading by as many as 23. Chicago responded, however, using a 15-6 run to trim the score to 14. Justin Holiday hit the first (and only) three pointer of the half for the Pacers as a response, allowing the Pacers to escape the third with a slim 27-26 advantage.
Rebounding became a big issue for the Pacers in the fourth quarter. The Bulls had eight offensive rebounds in the final period allowing Chicago to make it a single digit game heading into the final minute. To make matters worse, turnovers were a big issue throughout the game.
Off of their 22nd on the night, Shaquille Harrison raced down the floor, only to be tracked down by J. Holiday for a crucial block.
Coby White would eventually pull Chicago to within six, but Aaron Holiday stepped up to ice the game at the line, making his final five attempts to keep the Bulls from pulling any closer. It clinched a winning record on the road trip for the Pacers, getting them back into the win column after their loss in Milwaukee.
Domantas Sabonis led the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds, completing his 49th double double of the season, tying a franchise record for double doubles in a season. He was unstoppable until a late game switch brought Thaddeus Young onto Sabonis, a decision that probably should’ve been made earlier in the game.
Even still, Sabonis did have seven turnovers. Partially tentative, partially unfamiliar with the lineups, Sabonis and the Pacers as a whole were out of sorts throughout the game. Their ability to outwork the Bulls and shoot over 60% from three point range in the first half allowed them to build a 23-point lead, but once the three quit falling and the fatigue caught up to them, it allowed Chicago to climb right back into the game.
Indiana finished with 22 turnovers, leading to 21 extra points for the Bulls. While Indiana did outscore Chicago 25-21 off of turnovers, the slow start shrunk the margin for error, especially as the first half success of guys like Sumner wasn’t duplicated. Sumner had 12 first half points, hitting a pair of threes, but blanked afterwards.
It was clear at halftime that being in and out of the lineup played a role in Sumner’s fatigue. At halftime, he was clearly gassed and didn’t quite have the same punch in the second half. Sampson didn’t seem phased, scoring six after the break to finish with 14 on 5-6 shooting. Sampson also helped push the lead late in the first half, receiving a pair of beautiful passes from Sumner and Victor Oladipo to close the half with a purpose.
This just in: Jakarr Sampson is putting on a show.— FOX Sports Indiana (@FSIndiana) March 7, 2020
TV: FSI | Stream: FSGO pic.twitter.com/5hwAlrdU6Z
Oladipo had a solid outing himself, scoring 16 points with a starter best four assists (joined by A. Holiday). He did most of his damage during the second and third quarters, his layup halfway through the third pushing the lead to 23. He even brought a key bucket late, bullying his way to the rim for a much needed bank shot with 90 seconds on the clock.
Defensively, the Pacers held the Bulls to just 41% shooting, including 9-38 from three. The latter would’ve held more water had Indiana at least matched Chicago’s three second half triples, but they did well to limit the Bulls’ effectiveness, blocking eight shots on the night, led by Myles Turner, who had four blocks to go along his 15 points and eight rebounds.
With the win, Indiana improves to 3-1 on this five game road trip, moving back into fifth. They also pick up a game on the fourth seeded Miami, who lost in New Orleans tonight. The Pacers will wrap up their road trip on Sunday, facing the Dallas Mavericks.
It may be the last of the road trip, but it will be the first of a make or break five game stretch, playing four playoff teams over the course of the next two weeks, including Boston, Philadelphia, and Miami. The lone game against a losing team? Golden State with a returning Stephen Curry.