For the first time this month, Carlos Boozer availed the Bulls of his services, yet it had little effect as they fell to second place in the Central Division, 111-101.
In only their second matchup with the Indiana Pacers (after their December 26th matchup was postponed due to weather), the Bulls saw themselves healthier than they have been for a week or so. Reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week (lol) Nate Robinson continued his scoring binge, dropping 19 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals on 7-15 shooting. Marco Belinelli had his best game of the year after rolling his ankle on a potential 4 point play in the first quarter. The Professional had 24 points on 9-13 shooting, most of them coming in the fourth quarter when he broke Lance Stephenson (15 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assits) off the dribble multiple times and hit a series of mid range shots.
The Pacers were lead by David West, who continues to make his case as an All-Star snub with an alltogether dominant 29 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks on 11-18 shooting. He simply devoured every defender the Bulls threw at him tonight. George Hill had a great game of his own, throwing in 20 points and 6 assists on 7-10 shooting (3-5 from deep). 2013 All-Star Paul George also did a few awesome things, finishing with 21 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks on 6-14 shooting. More importantly, George thoroughly controlled his matchup against fellow All-Star Luol Deng, who struggled to get his shot off all night, finishing with 13 points and 6 boards on 4-18 shooting. It was Deng's ineffectiveness, along with Boozer's (10 points, 5 boards on 4-12 shooting in only 23 minutes) that was the biggest key in a big win for Indiana, who now leads the Central Division.
This was a surprisingly high-scoring game between the league's two best defensive teams, and the scoring came in vastly different ways. The Pacers had just four double digit scorers, with three of them scoring 20 or more, while the Bulls had 7 double digits scorers with only one of them (Belinelli) topping the 20 point mark. Turns out dependable scoring threats beat a spread offense in this case.
The Bulls, who fell to 12-16 against teams currently at or over the .500 mark (and 2-4 against Central Division foes Milwaukee and Indiana), also received contributions from Rip Hamiton (10 points, 5-9 shooting), Taj Gibson (10 points, 11 boards, 5 blocks) and Jimmy Butler (10 points, 3 steals), but it wasn't enough to best the Pacers, who tied their own team record with 14 straight home victories. The Bulls, on the other hand, saw their NBA record (shared with San Antonio) 41 straight victories when scoring 100 or more points come to an end, against an opponent I don't think anyone ever saw this coming from. The Bulls next play Thursday in Denver.
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