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Pacers snap seven game skid with thrilling comeback over Bulls

Indiana stormed back against Chicago in the second half, outscoring them by 22. Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin each had 18 of their 26 after the break.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

For 24 minutes, the Indiana Pacers were very much on-brand with their recent struggles, stumbling through the first half on 32.7% shooting, getting limited contributions on offense and seeing even their defensive positives ultimately result in points favoring the Chicago Bulls.

That would lead to an unsurprising scenario in which the Pacers trailed 62-41 with 1:40 remaining in the first half. Chris Duarte drew a foul on a three point shot on the next play, hitting all three to finish the lone double figure scorer for Indiana with 11 and Myles Turner wrapped things up with a bucket to cut the lead to 16 at halftime.

Surprisingly, a mini-run that appeared to simply close the half turned out to play a big part in helping turn the game around in Indiana’s favor. Out of the half, Turner answered the call to give the Pacers offense something reliable, scoring the first seven points of the half. That stretch wouldn’t do much to cut into the lead, but the next six he scored would, bringing the Pacers to within single digits by pulling the chair and slamming it home.

That was as close as the Pacers could get for the time being as the Bulls extended the lead back to 14 midway through the quarter. Chicago also countered Turner’s success by bringing in Andre Drummond to slow things down a bit, a move that worked until Turner stepped back with the triple as the shot clock expired.

Turner went to the bench shortly after, finishing the quarter with 16 points, but opening a potential hole in Indiana’s offense. While it was only three points to end the quarter, it was a massive finish from Terry Taylor, bringing Indiana to within seven at the end of the third.

Taylor provided solid minutes into the fourth quarter as Bennedict Mathurin took charge early in the quarter, scoring four quick points to cut the lead to six. Aaron Nesmith would come through on the defensive end with a massive block on Coby White, preventing the fast break bucket after a turnover.

Indiana continued to battle back getting five straight from Mathurin to cut the lead to two with seven minutes remaining before Chicago managed to push the lead back out to six a minute later.

The Pacers responded immediately, however, kicking off an 8-0 run that gave them their first lead of the game courtesy of T.J. McConnell. Unsurprisingly, the lead wouldn’t hold as DeMar DeRozan drew a foul, tying the game up at 102-102. Hield missed the go-ahead three, but fought on the rebound, coming up with it, stepping back and appeared to leave his follow-up three long when it bounced high off the rim, bouncing home to put the Pacers up by three.

Another Chicago mini-run flipped the scoreboard back in their favor and despite a pair of trips to the line, the Pacers could only go up by one by splitting the attempts at 2-4. DeRozan again changed the lead again only to have Mathurin drill his first three of the night to go up two.

The wild finish continued with Nikola Vucevic slamming home a game-tying dunk. McConnell got to the rim on the other end, feeding Mathurin at the basket for the go-ahead layup.

Chicago advanced the ball on a timeout, but were forced to burn their final one when they were unable to inbound the ball. On their second attempt, Hield guarded Alex Caruso, tipping the inbounds over Vucevic’s head to Nesmith, who iced the game on a pair of free throws, wrapping up an improbable 116-110 win.

Indiana outscored the Bulls 70-48 in the second half, shooting 53%, blocking seven shots and forcing Chicago into nine turnovers on six steals. Those nine second half turnovers eclipsed Indiana’s totals for the night at eight, helping the Pacers to a dominating 24-9 win points off turnovers.

After getting just one double figure scorer in the first half, Indiana had four in the second half, led by Turner and Mathurin with 18 each. To go alongside Turner’s 16 in the third, Mathurin scored 15 in the fourth, shooting 7-8 form the floor in the second half, a massive improvement over his 3-9 struggles in the first half.

He and Turner would each wind up 26, with Turner pulling in eight rebounds and Mathurin seven. Their second half performances were the thing Indiana has largely been without over the course of the now expired seven game losing streak and it was clearly rejuvenating as well, as each point they shaved off the lead brought them back to their prime energy and excitement.

Prior to the game, the Pacers got the news that Andrew Nembhard would be out with the non-COVID illness he had been battling as far back as Saturday, leaving McConnell to take on the weight of the offense, playing 40 minutes on the night. He made the most of it as well, completing a double double with 20 points and 10 assists to go with three steals.

Surprisingly, neither McConnell or Turner led the way in steals or blocks, both went to Hield, who had four and three respectively, all coming in the second half. Hield was the biggest recipient of Indiana’s newfound life after the break, scoring 13 with a pair of threes in 21 second half minutes.

His fourth quarter three, along with Mathurin’s, were part of a dreadful shooting night from deep for Indiana as a whole. They shot 2-10 in the fourth and 10-37 for the game, but somehow came out ahead in the percentage game, limiting Chicago to just 5-24 themselves.

Taylor joined the double figure scorers, finishing with 11 points on 5-11 shooting with five rebounds, four offensive. It was a season high night for Taylor, who has really struggled finding his spot in the rotation this season, but showed out as Rick Carlisle continued to tinker with the lineup tonight.

Elsewhere, Nesmith had another tough night scoring the ball, scoring just three points, all at the free throw line in the fourth quarter, shooting 0-7 for the game. He remained engaged, blocking two shots and picking up a steal. Off the bench, Isaiah Jackson blocked three shots of his own in limited time.

The win was long overdue for a Pacers team that has had a whale of a time figuring things out without Tyrese Haliburton and it didn’t look like tonight would be the night either given how poorly they played in the first half. Even still, they never relented after the break, fighting back and closing out the Bulls to get back into the win column.

With a winter storm bearing down on central Indiana, the Pacers are fortunate enough to be able to get out of town for its duration, heading down to sunny Florida to set up a back-to-back matchup with the Orlando Magic. As the Hoosier State braces for upwards of a foot of snow, Orlando is expected to be a balmy 85 degrees tomorrow, so lucky them.