It never felt like this game was going to be high scoring with the elite defensive abilities both teams contained but a fourth quarter tear by Indiana ensured that Frank Vogel’s men remained the only undefeated team in the NBA, beating Central Division rivals Chicago 97-80.
The Pacers came into the game off the back of a strong start to the season whereas Chicago were still waiting on their main man Rose to come out firing after a stuttered start to his return.
It seemed as if we has the D-Rose we all dreamed of seeing on his comeback, the Bulls star shot out of the blocks going 3/3 to start his night. Neither team was flowing on the offensive end in the first however; Hibbert and West were doing a good job protecting the rim early and the Pacers perimeter making many shots.
The two big men for Indiana kept it up on both ends of the floor though showing off their post game, West hit an arching right hander and soon after bagged himself a couple of free throws to put the Pacers up 14-11 with 4:00 left in the first.
Rose’s good start was stopped almost as soon as it had started when he had to take some time out on the bench late on in the first committing his second foul of quarter. Indy took control of the game from there with Paul George nailing a three to stretch the teams run to 13-2.
Constant ref calls for meaningless infringements didn’t allow either team to really take advantage of a sustained passage of good play and after a Hinrich buzzer beater, the Bulls managed to stay within six at the end of the quarter trailing Indy 23-17.
Deng, Noah and Boozer has combined for six points in the opening quarter and with Rose having to sit early on it was hard to see where the points were going to come from for Chicago.
Deng came out strong in the second though knocking down three shots and feeding Boozer for an easy lay-up to help tie the game up at 27-27, Scola having kept up the offence on Indy’s end of the floor.
Chicago may have struggled in the first quarter but they took a hold early on in the second going on a 14-2 run in the first six minutes thanks to Deng and Rose’s return. Orlando Johnson helped prevent the onslaught with four points to cut the Bulls lead but Rose ran it straight back down the other end with a sweet left handed finish on a lane drive.
David West carried on his good work for the night grabbing his own offensive rebound and scoring the ball but the Pacers still went into the half down six trailing 43-37.
There was no rhythm to the game at all at the break, Pacers only managed 12 in the 2nd turning it over 6 times. Deng’s early burst and D-Rose’s return from foul trouble to get into double digits pushed them over the line in an underwhelming offensive display from both sides at the half.
Going into the second half Chicago’s Noah and Butler and Indy’s Stephenson still didn’t have any points. Stephenson went 0-7 with three fouls despite averaging 17ppg to start the season.
Whatever Vogel said in the locker room must have worked with Indiana pouring on eight straight points to start the quarter and take the lead by one. Rose hit back with a great hesitation lay-up drawing the foul and turning it into an And-1 play to move on to 15 points and put Chicago 49-47 up.
Even Butler finally made a shot with eight to go in the third to end his game long drought but four unanswered point from David West who was looking dangerous in the post and from mid range on the night put the Pacers back up 53-51.
The lead changed eight times in the second and third quarter, neither team took their chances and with Hibbert swatting away another five shots for the night and Noah/Boozer guarding the Bulls rim the offensive efficiency was pretty low.
Indiana started exerted their dominance on the game thanks to some good numbers from their bench players, Sloan jacked up a three to put them eight points ahead.
A Hinrich three put the Bulls within five until Deng drove in for the And1 as well as Vogel being slapped with a technical complaining that it should’ve instead been called a travel and the Pacers lead was cut to just a point heading into a more nervy than exciting fourth quarter.
Despite some early shots in the fourth for Scola Chicago had the better of the opening exchanges leading by a bucket with nine minutes to go, Vogel took a time-out and the game took on a whole new complexion from there.
The Indiana supporting cast started to pile it on; Sloan made a jumper to tie the game before Stephenson finally found his touch when he knocked down a three. Hinrich made a wayward pass allowing Scola to sink it from 18 feet and get the home crowd out of their seats, it took 40 minutes of basketball but finally there was an exciting buzz about the game.
Bulls called a timeout but it didn’t seem to work with Scola grabbing his own steal and laying it in at the other end and soon after Stephenson hit another three to put the Pacers up 10, a lead that seemed pretty much unassailable considering the lack of production from Chicago.
Just to rub it in a former Bull in CJ Watson knocked down a three from a rebounded free throw to put the Pacers up 83-72, their largest lead of the game.
The Bulls unloaded their bench with a minute to go and Indy routed their Eastern rivals by 17 points at 97-80. Despite Hibbert and George having solid games the plaudits have to go to guys like Sloan, Johnson, Scola, Watson and Stephenson who came up big for the Pacers when it mattered most, proof that this team has the depth to be a contender this year (and that’s without George Hill and Danny Granger back yet.)
For the Bulls it never really got going, Rose managed 17 and slowed up after the third and Boozer couldn’t quite replicate the amazing start to the season he’d had so far. Deng had a good game but the team is clearly lacking some depth in scoring. Only its set of guys really get the job done each night and if they aren’t performing then there’s no-one on the bench who can really save a game for them.
The last time the Pacers opened up at 5-0, they were bouncing a red, white and blue ball up and down the court in a league where they actually won championships. Bird and co must be feeling confident of making it six in six when they host Toronto on Friday whereas it’s been a pretty poor start to the season for a Bulls team who are still waiting for Rose to start firing on all cylinders.