The pecking order in the Central Division has been settled. At least for now.
Despite a second straight game with a horrendous second quarter (9 points last night in Detroit; 12 tonight against Chicago), the Pacers still managed to take control of the game in the second half and then blow out the Bulls.
The bad second period left them in a six-point hole at the break, but that was all erased when the Pacers dismantled the Bulls to the tune of 60-37 over the final 24 minutes.
It was an all-around team effort. As he has been in every contest this season, Paul George was the best player over the whole game, but as he has often been throughout this young season, the young Lance Stephenson was the one who had a multi-minute flurry of fury for which the opposition had no answer.
In the fourth quarter, Stephenson hit a pair of threes, a couple free throws and a layup on his way to 12 points in the period. During his 7:32 on the court, Indiana outscored Chicago by 21 points.
Luis Scola was the other huge difference maker late. He hit some jumpers (one the benefit of a nice Lance draw-and-dish) and created some offense on his own by getting a steal and taking it all the way to the rack. It was his best game of the year — which was even nicer since David West and Roy Hibbert were both the best versions of themselves at different times during this one. It has long been the theoretical case, but now we truly know that this front court can be a terror when these three get going — and this wasn’t even near peak performance.
I’m almost forgetting to mention it at this point because it’s so routine, but Indiana’s defense was stalwart throughout.
Frank Vogel’s boys held the Bulls to a meager 35.6% shooting on the night, and after a slightly weak start, there really was no let up. In the first, second, third, and fourth quarters, respectively, Chicago shot 47.4% (9-for-19), 35.3% (6-for-17), 25.0% (5-for-20), and 35.3% (6-for-17). For those scoring at home, that’s 11 total field goals for the losers in the final 24 minutes. Bully ball.
The Bulls also coughed the ball up 18 times (11 in the second half), which led to 29 Pacer points. On a night when the Pacers’ offense wasn’t always humming, winning the takeaway battle and exploiting that margin so adeptly is what turns a tough win into a blowout.
The Bulls aren’t yet the Bulls that the Bulls will be.
ESPN Stats & Info noted after the game that that Derrick Rose now has more turnovers than assists in all his games this year. Joakim Noah, too, is not himself.
But the Pacers don’t care.
They just dressed down the once-class of the division and, at least for now, are the new bullies of the Central. Oh, and also the entire NBA for that matter.
You never want to get too high in November — especially given that this semi-competent Bulls team is the first scary opponent Indiana has faced — but no team in the league looks better right now.
|David West, PF 31 MIN | 8-16 FG | 1-2 FT | 13 REB | 1 AST | 3 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +20 |
Best game of the year for David. Mr. West is in the building. Did his best work late after starting the game off, I believe, 2-of-7. And though it wasn’t really needed, showed some tenacity late by getting Indiana some extra possessions to ensure no miracle comeback by the Bulls could ensue.
|Paul George, SF 39 MIN | 6-19 FG | 7-7 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +28 |
Murderous material made by a mad man. His line tonights wasn’t as good as we’ve become accustomed to, but still pretty darn sweet. The FTAs are the most encouraging, especially those earned late when he didn’t settle for Js. Also moved over to check Rose as Indiana pulled away in the fourth.
|Roy Hibbert, C 37 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 5 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +31 |
He is up to 27 blocks now in 5 games. Absurd. As long as he’s defending the rim like that, any points he adds are gravy.
|C.J. Watson, PG 27 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | +22 |
Man. What a steady, solid, good acquisition he has been so far. Don’t think the Pacers start off 5-0 with any of the other backup point guards they have had in recent years starting.
|Lance Stephenson, SG 32 MIN | 5-17 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | +20 |
Another shaky start in a game during which he COMPLETELY REDEEMED hisself. Couldn’t hit oxygen early, but then Lance Person, aka, Chuck Stephenson, aka Born Rifleman* showed up to put a bullet in Chicago’s head. Made some nice passes and got to the hoop as well. This guy.
* (c) @Bubstermania
|Luis Scola, PF 16 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -1 |
Best game as a Pacer. Was just stellar in the fourth quarter. He was silky from the midrange, then found some rhythm with Lance, and managed to take a lovely open-court steal all the way to the house for a layup. The bench catalyst Indiana needs.
|Chris Copeland, SF 1 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2 |
|Solomon Hill, SF 7 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3 |
Didn’t play much.
|Ian Mahinmi, C 10 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 0 PTS | -12 |
Wasn’t good. Left with an injury.
|Donald Sloan, PG 21 MIN | 4-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -5 |
Was good. Very good. Really like this guy. Indiana has seemingly countless starting point guards who couldn’t manage a line this sweet in 40 minutes of action.
|Orlando Johnson, SG 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -17 |
Some good, some bad. Pretty Pulp-like.
|Rasual Butler, SG 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -2 |
Tags: Game Recap