Bulls fall to George, Pacers after late no-call
December 4, 2012, 9:24 pm
As hotly contested as the Bulls-Pacers rivalry has been over the past few seasons, it’s no surprise that Tuesday night’s game at the United Center came down to the wire. In a low-scoring affair, the Bulls (8-8) withstood an offensive onslaught from Pacers (9-9) swingman Paul George and had a chance to send the game into overtime late, but a controversial no-call on a Luol Deng drive to the basket was a crucial part of how the hosts dropped the 80-76 contest.
As usual when these two teams face off, it was a close-knit affair from the outset, with the emphasis on defense or at least not a lot of offensive productivity. For the Pacers, George (34 points, nine rebounds) came out firing, showing off both his vast potential and diverse scoring repertoire.
The Bulls were sparked by another strong effort from the frontcourt trio of Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, all of whom were active from the early going and asserted themselves as scorers. However, propelled by the play of George, the Bulls trailed, 20-18, at the conclusion of the opening period.
Deng carried over his aggressive play to the second quarter and with support from the second unit, the Bulls eventually overtook their guests. Nate Robinson, in particular, filling in for a foul-burdened Kirk Hinrich, provided a boost with his instant-offense game.
Behind George and point guard George Hill, the visitors stayed within close contact with the hosts in the choppy, whistle-plagued contest. At the intermission, though, the Bulls held a 37-25 advantage.
After the break, Hinrich’s playmaking and the scoring of Duke products Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) and Boozer were the primary catalysts for the Bulls. But Indiana, led by George—his stellar play was expected by many observers prior to the season, but the athletic wing has had some uneven performances in the wake of sidelined star Danny Granger’s knee injury—who got ample help from center Roy Hibbert (10 points, 11 rebounds).
Suddenly, the Bulls found themselves in a hole, creeping toward a double-digit margin, and the Pacers maintained separation from their hosts as the period waned on. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls narrowed the gap a bit, but they were still on the wrong end of a 60-55 score.
Reserves Robinson and Jimmy Butler breathed life into the previously dormant United Center crowd. Butler got a steal and subsequent dunk in transition to start things off, followed by Robinson (19 points) going on a personal 7-0 run—he hit a triple to beat the shot clock, made a fast-break layup and concluded his spurt with a floater—before George knocked down a long-distance shot of his own to silence the partisan audience.
The damage was done, however, as the Bulls seized control of both the lead and the game, heading into the contest’s stretch run, but George refused to relent, carrying the Pacers on his back to ensure the visitors wouldn’t be run out of the building until it was officially time for them to go. George was unconscious, hitting shots from every angle with one of the league’s top defenders in Deng, draped all over him and in this slugfest, his contested jumper to make it 76-74 in Indiana’s favor with 2:06 remaining had the effect of a last-second dagger.
Bulls miscues, whether unforced or simply bad bounces, plagued the hosts late and after Lance Stephenson converted a layup—on which he was fouled, but missed the ensuing free throw—with 45.5 seconds left, it looked to be a done deal. Boozer (14 points, 10 rebounds) had a chance to cut it to a one-point deficit with a three-point play opportunity of his own with 37.2 seconds to go, but like Stephenson, he also missed the foul shot.
Down two points, the Bulls got a big defensive stop and after Taj Gibson secured the rebound with 14.1 seconds on the clock, they called a timeout before a chance to tie the game at 78 apiece or even go ahead for the win. After the inbounds pass, Noah got the ball to a cutting Deng on the baseline and though he drew contact from Hibbert—the center had his arms outstretched, but it was a controversial decision, as evidenced by the home fans’ displeasure—no call was made and after a pair of David West (10 points, nine rebounds, five assists) free throws with 5.2 seconds to play, it was all academic.
Tags: Luol Deng
, Indiana Pacers
, Chicago Bulls
, Nate Robinson
, carlos boozer
, Roy Hibbert
, Paul George