The Bulls, with Derrick Rose at the controls, have been able to scramble from behind in the fourth quarter many times before.
On Wednesday against Indiana, they trailed by 7 points with four minutes left, trimmed it to 92-90 and took possession with 37 seconds remaining.
Rose started to drive, found himself in a crowd and fired a pass outside to, to Brian Scalabrine?
Yes, with Luol Deng and Taj Gibson sidelined by injuries, Scalabrine checked in as a defensive replacement for Carlos Boozer one possession earlier.
This was a dream scenario for the Scalabrine fan club, which consists of just about everyone inside the United Center. But the potential go-ahead 3-point shot was a little flat and bounced off the front of the rim.
Ronnie Brewer got his hands on the rebound, but the ball was ripped away and eventually made it downcourt for a clinching dunk by Indiana's Roy Hibbert with 13.1 seconds on the clock.
The Bulls (16-4) lost for the first time at home this season, dropping a 94-90 decision in this suddenly intense Central Division rivalry. The Bulls beat the Pacers in the first round of last year's playoffs in five tough games.
“I'll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game,” Rose said in the locker room. “I can't wait to play them again.”
The next meeting is back at the United Center on March 5. The Bulls visit Indiana just once this season and not until April 25. The Pacers, obviously, couldn't wait for this contest to be played.
“The guys are just thrilled to get the win here,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “They were crushed that we didn't beat (the Bulls) last year in the playoffs.”
This was obviously the night when playing short-handed finally caught up to the Bulls. The injuries weren't such a big deal against Charlotte or Toronto.
Brewer produced 20 points and 10 rebounds starting in place of Deng, out with a left wrist injury. But the Bulls didn't get many contributions from the bench, just 8 points and 6 rebounds. Indiana super-sub Tyler Hansbrough did more than that by himself.
The Bulls didn't have Gibson (sprained ankle) to use as a defensive replacement, and that pass by Rose with the game on the line, well, Scalabrine isn't on the floor in crunchtime very often.
“That's usually his shot,” Rose said. “I'd give it to him again if he was wide open. In practice, that's all he shoots is baseline 3s. I didn't hesitate at all.”
Rose led the Bulls with 24 points, but he couldn't bring them back after a 10-point halftime lead evaporated. The game got away midway through the fourth quarter. After Boozer hit a turnaround to bring the home team within 81-80 with nine minutes left, the Bulls managed just 2 points over the next five minutes. Backup point guard C.J. Watson (0-for-6) couldn't hit a shot and Rose checked back in at the 7:18 mark.
The Pacers (12-5), who lost at home to Orlando on Tuesday, were able to keep Rose under control and find enough offense to hold the lead.
“In the fourth quarter, I think they knew exactly what they were doing,” Rose said. “Last spring (in the playoffs), they didn't know. They were still trying to find their identity as team. Now, they work from inside, where they get it to their big men and see what they can create.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau put the blame on poor preparation.
“I think getting ready to play is a big part of this league,” he said. “You've got to be ready to play every night. As soon as you start feeling good about yourself, you're going to get knocked on your butt.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.