Despite shooting only 44.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from downtown, the shorthanded Bulls had seven players in double-figures. According to Basketball-Reference, Chicago scored at a rate of 110.3 points per 100 possessions against an Indiana team that leads the league in Defensive Efficiency at only 96.5 points surrendered per 100 possessions. And the Bulls normally score at a rate of 100.6 points per 100 possessions.
Again according to Basketball-Reference, the Pacers scored a blistering rate of 121.2 points per 100 possessions against a Bulls defense that ranks second in the league at 97.1 points surrendered per 100 possessions. This was especially staggering considering that the Pacers rank 25th in Offensive Efficiency at 99.7 points per 100 possessions.
Indiana scored 60 first half points on 66.7 percent shooting. For the game, the Pacers shot 52.7 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range. For perspective, the Bulls rank second in the league in field goal percentage defense (.428) and fifth in three-point percentage defense (.337).
In addition to the hot shooting, the Pacers converted more free throws (27) than the Bulls even attempted (22).
Said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau: “We got to play better defense. Any time you make a commitment in one area you’re giving something up in another. You have to decide what gives you your best chance of winning. So as the game is unfolding, we started in a big hole, so we had to get out of that hole. So now you’re scrambling from there and trying to give yourself a chance. I thought we were in position with five minutes to go that we thought we could win the game. We have to expect better, but we didn’t get it done.”
Both David West (29 points on 11-for-18 shooting) and George Hill (22 points on 7-for-10 shooting) had smoke wafting off their hot hands. It happens. The Bulls were missing two of their best defenders in Kirk Hinrich (sore right elbow) and Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis in right foot). But Indiana also won the rebounding battle 47-35 and had an Offensive Rebounding Percentage that was 10 percent higher than Chicago’s (36.1 to 26.1).
In other words: The Bulls got outworked.
In some ways, it’s understandable. The Bulls were playing a division rival on the road without three starters in Hinrich, Noah and Derrick Rose. But the Pacers played smarter and hit harder all game long.
Marco Belinelli (24 points, 9-for-13, 3 assists), Nate Robinson (19 points, 9 assists, 3 steals) and Taj Gibson (11 rebounds, 10 points, 5 blocked shots) did what they could, but Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng combined to shoot 8-for-30 (26 percent) and the Bulls just seemed a step behind all night despite being competitive until the final minutes.
Speaking of which…
Despite getting outplayed most of the night, Belinelli hit a 14-footer to pull the Bulls to within 98-94 with 1:59 remaining. Hill turned the ball over on Indy’s next possession but Marco missed a mid-range jumper on the other end. There was a scramble during which the ball seemed to go off of Indiana’s Roy Hibbert. The officials signaled Pacers ball and declined to review the play despite the fact that it happened during the final two minutes of the game.
Said Thibodeau: “[Official] Mike Callahan went and asked [official Mark Lindsay] and he said there was no need. It’s reviewable under two minutes. It’s subjective. But if there’s any question, supposedly you do it.”
Added Robinson: “What’s the rule? Under two minutes you’re supposed to review right? It speaks for itself, man. We all [asked for a review]. For us, we go out there and play hard, we don’t be lazy on calls. We go out and play as hard as we can and for them not to review it, to me I just feel like that was just being lazy. Not taking anything from the referees because I know that’s one of the hardest jobs to do is to officiate a game but for them not review it, knowing the rules? That’s just self explanatory. It just shows that either they didn’t want to do it or they’re just being lazy.”
It wasn’t too surprising. Back in 2009, an academic study of NBA officiating found that three specific types of favoritism — one of which was for the home team — resulted in a 5-10 percent advantage in “discretionary” turnovers. That is, turnovers over which the official have the most influence.
The book Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games are Won — written by Tobias J. Moskowitz, a behavioral economist at the University of Chicago, and L. Jon Wertheim, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated — contends that home-court/home field advantage in sports is due to the bias of officials toward the home team. Mind you, this isn’t a conspiracy, but the product of of a human being’s psychological need to be liked and confirmed in their judgement. Which is what happens when an official makes a tough call in favor of the home team.
By the way, I’m not saying the Bulls got jobbed or anything like that. One call does not make or break a 48-minute game of basketball. Chicago’s defense and poor rebounding had a greater overall effect on the game.
And there’s a certain coach who agrees with me.
Said Thibs: “I thought we got a tough whistle and that happens. We had some calls that we should have had that went against us — that’s part of it. We have to have the mental toughness to get through that. We can’t allow that frustration to lead us into not executing or recklessly fouling. To me, those are the things you don’t want to do. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
The Bulls committed only 10 turnovers while forcing 16. That’s good.
However, the Pacers scored 19 points off Chicago’s turnovers, while the Bulls scored only 14 points off Indiana’ turnovers. That’s bad.
Given that the Bulls had only a slight advantage in second-chance points (17-16) while getting out-performed in transition (12-4) and points in the paint (42-38), you can see that this was a clear case of the Pacers simply playing better basketball.
Random Stat of the Night:
According to ESPN Stats and Information: “The Bulls lost Monday night to the Pacers, 111-101. The loss snapped the Bulls’ 41-game win streak when scoring at least 100 points, which was tied for the longest such streak in NBA history (Spurs).”
Get Those Guys More Time:
With healthy bodies in sort supply, Deng (44:03), Gibson (44:03) and Robinson (40:27) logged heavy minutes again.
I admit to being mildly curious why Rip Hamilton (10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist) logged only 15:47. I was even more curious why Marquis Teague (2 points and 2 assists) got only 7:33 on the court. The Bulls were actually +12 in Teague’s short stint…easily the best plus-minus score on the team. I know Thibs isn’t a big fan of rookies, but still.
Quote of the Night Part 1:
“Like coach said, sometimes guys get hot. No excuses, they just flat out beat us. They made shots tonight. You have Lance Stephenson step back and making threes. Seriously, come on? Not taking nothing from his game, but that’s not his game. They made some big-time shots at the end, tough shots over guys playing great defense. We got to live with it. But we got to move on and get ready for our next game.”
Robinson was referencing a 27-foot bomb dropped on the Bulls by Stephenson with 6:33 left after the Bulls had pulled to within 92-88. But although Stephenson was 0-for-3 on triples to that point and despite the fact that he was only 4-for-35 on threes in his first two seasons in the league, he is shooting 37 percent from beyond the arc this season.
Quote of the Night Part 2:
Gibson on Bulls versus Pacers: “It’s a rivalry. We understand that every time we step on the court these two teams have something to prove. They’re trying to win a division, we’re trying to win a division. We’re trying to get better and help our teams move forward in the swing of things and right now they’ve got the two wins on us. They’re feeling good, but we’re looking forward to playing them again late.”
Quote of the Night Part 3:
Thibs on the team’s shortcomings in this loss: “You just got to learn. You learn from every situation. You’re on the road against a quality opponent and you want to be in position to win. There’s a lot that goes into winning. When you rely on making it strictly an offensive game where you’re trading baskets, now you’re reducing your chances because if you hit a tough stretch, now you’re in trouble. So if you defend and you rebound and you take care of the ball and you play inside out and you share the ball, there’s a lot of discipline that’s required to do that,” he continued. “And a lot of effort that’s required to do that. But you have to be a well-balanced team. With that being said, I still think over the course of the season you have to win a lot of different ways. I did like that we fought back. You have to figure out what you can do to give yourself a chance in the end. I thought our guys did that. Of course we’re disappointed with the way we finished, but it’s still a very winnable game.”