The Bulls played their second game on the road against another team projected to vie for the Eastern Conference crown tonight, and as it was in Miami, the Bulls got clobbered by a team that seemed to be clicking on all cylinders, while Chicago couldn’t seem to get much of anything right.
That’s not totally accurate, of course, as the Bulls hung with the Pacers for 3 quarters, and at times in those 3 quarters looked like the better team. Unfortunately, games are 4 quarters long and the Bulls got waxed in the fourth, where they were outscored 34 to 18. In the last 8 minutes of the game, as Sam Smith tweeted, the Bulls were outscored 30 points to 11. Because things really went wrong in the fourth quarter, let’s take a closer look there, shall we?
In the final frame, the Bulls shot an abysmal 35.3% (6 for 17 on field goal attempts). Their cold shooting in the fourth was actually right in line with the 35.6% they shot for the full game. So if the shooting was consistently terrible throughout the game, then why did the Bulls get blown out in the fourth, where they had hung close to the Pacers in the previous three quarters? Well, for a number of reasons.
Chicago was dominated on the glass, as they allowed the Pacers to grab 7 offensive rebounds on their 12 missed shots for an OReb percentage of 58.3% (!). For their part, the Bulls were only able to grab 1 offensive board, despite missing 11 shots, so the Bulls had a roughly 9.1% OREB%, which is, obviously, just a huge discrepancy.
On top of the Bulls’ inability to grab rebounds in the fourth, they gave up a ton of open looks leading to the Pacers shooting 11 of 23 (47.8%) from the field. The Pacers also were more aggressive going to the basket, as they got to the line 3 times as frequently as the Bulls, on their way to 12 FTA compared with the Bulls 4.
The Bulls also turned the ball over 6 times, while the Pacers only turned it over twice.
The Bulls’ inability to shoot or get to the line or stop turning the ball over were part of wider trends that have been a problem for them in their 3 previous games, as I discussed here. What was new, and something I’d only expect a team as big and aggressive as the Pacers to be able to muster, was the Bulls getting killed on the glass.
Adding it all up the Pacers dominated the Bulls in every one of the Four Factors in the 4th quarter. It’s no surprise, then, that they were able to easily pull away for the win on their home floor.
I’m doing my best not to panic, as it’s still so early, but this one, much like the Miami game, hurt. The Pacers are supposed to be the Bulls’ peer, at best, and, more optimistically I viewed them as the Bulls’ pesky little brother within the division that they’d beat on their way to another Eastern Conference Finals showdown with Miami. Indiana, and breakout star Paul George in particular, appear to have other plans. Hopefully the Bulls can turn things around at home against the lowly Utah Jazz on Friday night.