The Indiana Pacers struggled for most of Wednesday night against the NBA’s worst team. In fact, they didn’t lead until the closing seconds.
But the Pacers (14-11) did what good teams do, mounting a late rally to knock off the Chicago Bulls (3-20), 98-96, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Indiana trailed by as many as 17 points on Wednesday and by 16 points in the fourth quarter before their comeback. The hosts reeled off a 13-2 run to trim the deficit to two points with 2:43 remaining.
Bulls second-year guard Kris Dunn responded on the other end with a driving layup and after the two teams traded turnovers, Cory Joseph buried a jumper to make it a two-point game once again with 1:19 to play. On the other end, Myles Turner blocked Lauri Markkanen’s shot off the Bulls rookie and out of bounds, setting up a chance for the Pacers to tie the game for the first time all night.
Oladipo drove to the rim and drew contact, but no whistle and the Bulls secured the rebound. But Denzel Valentine coughed the ball up and Oladipo atoned for his mistake, racing down the floor and knocking down a 3-pointer with 30.1 seconds remaining to give the Pacers their first lead of the night.
“I was surveying the scene at first, just seeing who was back, how many people were back and nobody stopped me,” Oladipo said after the game. “I could have kept going and drove into the defense or pull up for the three, shoot the ball with confidence, and that’s what I did.”
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Dunn missed a jumper on Chicago’s possession, forcing the visitors to foul Oladipo with 12.8 seconds remaining. The Pacers guard hit just one of two shots from the stripe, and the Bulls had a look to salvage a win, but Markkanen’s 3-pointer hit off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
Oladipo led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting (4-of-10 from 3-point range) and pulled down eight rebounds.
“It really took us all 48 minutes to get control of this game,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “Victor made some big shots in the fourth quarter and that transition three to put us ahead just shows the confidence that he’s playing with.”
The Pacers were sluggish out of the gate, falling into an early 13-4 hole a little over five minutes into the opening period. Indiana’s offense eventually found a rhythm, but Chicago’s strong shooting (52.4 percent in the first quarter) allowed the visitors to open up a 30-20 lead.
Indiana scored the first four points of the second quarter, but the Bulls immediately answered with a 13-2 run to extend their lead to 43-26.
The Blue & Gold were able to trim the deficit to 11 on two occasions but never got back within single digits before halftime, trailing 55-39 heading into the break.
“We came out defensively and had some lapses,” Turner said. “On the offensive end, we weren’t hitting shots. I think we started settling, had some one-on-one play. It was a flat start, but we recovered, thankfully.”
Indiana got a nice spark from Darren Collison in the third quarter. The Pacers point guard scored 10 points in the frame — including a pair of 3-pointers — to help the hosts trim the deficit to eight.
But the Bulls answered once again, closing the frame with an 8-2 run to take an 83-69 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Pacers weren’t able to get back within single digits until Thaddeus Young’s tip-in made it 92-83 with 5:29 remaining.
Bojan Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer just under a minute later made it a six-point game and then Oladipo added two free throws with 3:38 to play. Myles Turner then stripped the ball from Robin Lopez and tossed an outlet pass to a streaking Bogdanovic for an easy slam that made it 94-92 and forced a Bulls timeout.
All five Pacers starters finished in double figures in the victory. Bogdanovic had 17 points, while Collison added 14. Young narrowly missed out on a double-double, finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds. And Turner stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and four blocks.
Dunn led the Bulls with 18 points, six boards, and six assists. Lopez added 16 points and five rebounds, while Valentine had 15 points and eight boards.
Chicago has now lost 10 straight games and is just 1-12 on the road this season.
The Pacers continue a season-long, six-game homestand when they host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at 7:00 PM ET. Cleveland will bring a 13-game winning streak into that contest.
“There’s a great team coming in here playing on a Friday night in Indy,” Oladipo said. “I think the Pacers fans will be in attendance.
“They’re a great team, they’re playing very, very, very well right now, and they’ve got a lot of great players. We’re going to have to be ready to play.”
Inside the Numbers
Oladipo has already scored 20 or more points in 17 games this season, a feat he accomplished only 18 times last season with Oklahoma City.
Turner, who entered the night leading the NBA in blocked shots per game, had his fourth four-block game of the season on Wednesday.
Turner also matched his career high with six assists. He previously set the mark on Feb. 11, 2017 against Milwaukee.
The Pacers won despite being outscored 44-26 in the paint and 29-19 in bench points.
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson had just six points off the bench on 3-of-9 shooting. He scored nine points in Monday’s win over New York but had scored in double figures in his last five previous contests.
You Can Quote Me On That
“I thought we came out flat, I don’t know why or if we thought it would be easy, but what I learned about the team tonight, they stuck together. I felt like they believed the entire time, that they were going to get it right and win this game.” -McMillan
“I feel like we just make the right play down the stretch. In the fourth quarter, whatever the play is, we make the right play as a team. We do a great job of that, we did a great job of that tonight down the stretch.” -Oladipo
“I’m expecting Vic to be Vic. That’s what he’s been doing all season and he came through for us.” -Turner on Oladipo’s play down the stretch
“It’s just confidence. We’ve been in these situations before. We don’t want to be in those situations, but just having the confidence in our offensive prowess and stepping up defensively, that’s what’s going to carry us.” -Turner
“This definitely stinks. We were playing well through the first three quarters, but they just kept grinding, fighting. You could see it. They were sticking to what they do and got stops when they needed them.” -Dunn
“We keep talking about being young, making mistakes, and our youth definitely showed in the fourth quarter with our defense, rebounding and shots. It hurts, but we have another game on Friday.” -Valentine
Stat of the Night
The Pacers outscored Chicago 19-4 over the final 6:57 of Wednesday’s contest. Over that stretch, Indiana held the Bulls to 1-of-8 shooting and forced four turnovers.
- The Pacers have won nine of their last 11 home games against Chicago.
- The Bulls lead the all-time series with Indiana 96-86, but the Pacers have a 61-31 lead in games played in Indianapolis.
- Chicago has now lost 10 straight games for just the seventh time in franchise history.
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