Short-Handed Indiana Pacers Lose In Final Seconds To The Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO, IL -- The Indiana Pacers started this game off very slowly as the Chicago Bulls quickly jumped out to a 15-2 lead. Indiana couldn't get much offense going as they trailed the Bulls 21-31 at the end of the opening quarter. Mostly the entire second quarter featured a double-digit lead by the Bulls. However, the Pacers used an 8-0 to narrow the gap towards the end of the first half. Indiana trailed the Bulls 53-45 after two quarters.

The Pacers started slowly in the second half as well. Chicago quickly increased their lead back to double-digits The Bulls held a 15-point lead with 7:00 left in the third quarter. It appeared that the Bulls were going to put away the Pacers for good, but they just kept on fighting and fighting. Indiana out-scored the Bulls 23-12 from that point to close the quarter. Indiana trailed the Bulls 79-75 with a quarter to go.

Chicago held a lead of around 5-points for most of the final quarter, but the Pacers turned up their execution. The Pacers were down by six points (93-87) with 4:03 left in the game, but then Paul George made two consecutive driving layups. George's two layups made the score 91-93 with 2:18 remaining. Monta Ellis then got a very difficult shot floating layup to fall, which forced Indiana to tie the game at 93-93 with 2:33 left to play.

Pau Gasol made a free throw and Jimmy Butler made a mid-range jumper, which gave Chicago a 96-93 lead with 1:23 to go. Ian Mahinmi missed two free throws after this sequence and that sparked a Bulls fast break opportunity. But then Paul George took a clutch charge on Tony Snell to give the Pacers the ball back, which resulted in a Monta Ellis driving layup. The score was then 95-96 with about 45 seconds to play. The Pacers forced to miss a layup with around 24 seconds left, which gave the Pacers the ball back with the chance to take the lead. Paul George arguably got fouled on a mid-range fade away by Jimmy Butler in the final seconds of the game. A foul call would have given Paul George two free throws, which could have either won the game or forced overtime.

Paul George, Monta Ellis, and C.J. Miles led the way for the Pacers. George had 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Ellis had 20 points and Miles had 19 points. Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 23 points and 6 assists, but he left the game with an ankle injury towards the end of the fourth quarter. Jimmy Butler had 17 points and Taj Gibson added 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists coming off the bench.

Indiana was without George Hill (upper respiratory infection), Rodney Stuckey (right ankle sprain), and Myles Turner (thumb surgery). Indiana played with only three traditional big men and decided to rely on their jump shooting. That back fired considering the fact that Paul George and C.J. Miles combined for all nine of the Pacers made 3-pointers. Indiana's depth problems went beyond their big men, they lacked a rotational point guard and it was painful. The Pacers are hoping that both George Hill and Rodney Stuckey are able to play on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a rough go for the Pacers in thsi game as they were dealing with the most adversity that they have felt all season.

The Pacers struggled to control the ball, which is reasonable considering their only point guard was Joseph Young. Indiana had 13 turnovers and allowed 14 points off of those turnovers. Indiana was simply awful shooting the ball from 2-point range, but specifically near the basket. Indiana shot 26-66 (39.3%) from two, which is absolutely pathetic. Indiana shot well from the perimeter as they shot 9-21 (42.9%), but it was really all Paul George (4-5 3PT) and C.J. Miles (5-8 3PT) doing the work there as they were the only Pacers to make a 3-pointer. The rest of the team 0-8 from deep. Free throw shooting was poor as well, Indiana shot 16-24 (66.7%) from the charity stripe. Indiana did out-rebound the Bulls 50-48, but they just didn't do enough in other areas to win this game.

The Pacers defense did a quality job overall, but they had some costly breakdowns that ended up costing them the game. Chicago shot just 35-86 (40.7%) from the field and 20-32 (62.5%) from the free throw line, but their perimeter shooting was quality at 6-15 (40%). Chicago simply made more defensive plays than the Pacers did, Chicago had 9 steals and 9 blocks opposed to Indiana's 4 steals and 5 blocks. Chicago's execution on open shots and quality passes was better as well. Chicago had 26 assists and the Pacers had just 19. The Pacers just couldn't get any help from their bench or from their shooting outside of George and Miles. Hill, Turner, and Stuckey were heavily missed in this game since they are three of the team's most versatile and efficient offensive players. Those three are also some of the team's top defensive players as well, so it is safe to say that not having them was a big factor in the loss as well.

Indiana really struggled to execute in the fast break in this game. The Pacers had just 8 fast break points, meanwhile, the Bulls had 15. Indiana didn't get crushed in the paint as many expected, in fact, they out-scored the Bulls in the paint and won the rebounding battle. Indiana scored 38 points in the paint and the Bulls had 36. Indiana did a quality job of limiting Chicago's scoring from their turnovers, because the Bulls had just 12 points off turnovers and the Pacers had 14, but the Pacers committed 5 more turnovers. So basically poor outside shooting (outside of Miles and George), turnovers, poor fast break execution, lack of execution from inside the arc, poor free throw shooting, and a few defensive breakdowns ended up costing the Pacers a win.

The Pacers are now 6-5 on the season and are 7th in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are now 7-3 on the season and are 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The Indiana Pacers play the Philadelphia 76ers on the road on Wednesday for their next game, meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls play the Phoenix Suns on the road on Wednesday as well.