Indiana Pacers (9-9) 80
Chicago Bulls (8-8) 76
In a chess match at the United Center in Chicago, the Indiana Pacers rallied to steal a win from the Bulls 80-76. Indiana rounds out its four-game road trip with a 3-1 record before they return home Wednesday to face the Portland Trailblazers.
Two of the best defenses in the NBA were certainly on display Tuesday night, as the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls combined to score only 156 points. Granted three strong offensive players sat out the game with injuries in Danny Granger (Pacers) and Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton of the Bulls.
Nonetheless, the Pacers once again showed they can win close games at the end. Indiana trailed Chicago 74-70 with less than four minutes to play in the game. The defense tightened while allowing the Bulls to score just two points the rest of the way.
Most importantly, the Indiana Pacers were able to win a game – a road game at that – without strong offensive outputs from veterans David West and George Hill.
On this evening in the windy city, it was Paul George that stepped up to carry the load. George stepped onto the hardwood playing with confidence from the opening possession. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and was playing very aggressively, something Frank Vogel is looking for out of his young forward. He also provided a little flash in the opening period on a put-back jam over Bulls’ center Joakim Noah.
George continued to play an outstanding game until the final buzzer sounded, finishing with 34 points on 14-25 field goals to go along with nine rebounds. He also had the task of slowing down Luol Deng of Chicago. Deng has been called upon to step up his offensive game in the absence of star point guard Derrick Rose. George limited Deng to 17 points on 5-15 shooting from the floor and made Deng play defense on the opposite side of the ball all night long.
In fact, the Indiana Pacers as a team played great defense. They held Chicago to just 38% shooting for the game and forced 19 turnovers. Vogel has preached to his team how important it is to take care of the ball and take it away from the opposition. They had not been doing so early on, but are beginning to turn the corner in that category.
The Indiana Pacers now sit at 9-9, a .500 record, and tied with the Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the Central Division.