Lowest scoring team in the league isn't necessarily the best spot to be with 13 games left before the NBA playoffs.
But the fact remains, offense is not the Bulls' strong suit and that was painfully obvious Friday at Indiana.
The Bulls battled through a tight first half with the East-leading Pacers and took a 45-44 lead when Carlos Boozer opened the third quarter with a jumper.
That's when the scoring spigot was shut tight. While the Bulls missed tough shots, easy shots, any kind of shot -- the Pacers rolled up a 19-0 run and coasted home for a 91-79 victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Bulls shot 36.4 percent on the night. Indiana's defense makes things tough, but the Bulls might have been right in the game if only they could have knocked down more of their open shots.
They're not a good shooting team, though, which is why they've struggled against the NBA's best, losing to Indiana, San Antonio and Oklahoma City in the past few weeks. The Bulls and Pacers will meet again Monday at the United Center.
"They're a very good team, and I'm excited to play them again in a couple days," Joakim Noah said, according to espn.com. "And I'm excited to play them again for a long time. We'll be back."
Two players who did have it going were ex-Pacer D.J. Augustin, who hit 6 of 14 shots. Jimmy Butler went 4-for-6 from 3-point range. Augustin and Butler led the Bulls with 17 points each.
Meanwhile, Boozer was 5-for-14 with no made free throws. Noah shot 5-for-15 and Mike Dunleavy was 3-for-9. Taj Gibson had a rare off night, going 1-for-6 from the field and fouling out in 22 minutes. Noah was better, contributing 13 rebounds and 6 assists.
Gibson complained about the officiating after the game, but that's not why the Bulls lost. Boozer was called for a flagrant foul during the 19-0 run when he swung his arm at Roy Hibbert in the post. There didn't appear to be much contact, but Boozer's arm action got the attention.
"I thought there was a lot of flopping going on out there," Gibson told reporters after the game. "Anytime you see that, it makes you think that you don't want to get a ticky-tack foul. It was a dogfight, a slug fest, and I thought a couple of calls didn't go our way and took some of our momentum away."
The 19-point run finally ended when Lance Stephenson hit a shot, then loomed over the fallen Dunleavy and was called for a technical. Dunleavy hit the free throw to end a scoreless streak of 4:22, featuring 4 misses and 3 turnovers.
Thibodeau basically used a seven-man rotation, with Tony Snell and Nazr Mohammed playing token minutes.
On nights like these, it's easy to wonder whether Jimmer Fredette could add life to the offense. He's been billed as one of the best shooters in the game. Thibodeau said recently he's not afraid to use Fredette, but he's seen no reason to take out Augustin or Kirk Hinrich.
What about Dunleavy, who hasn't shot the ball particularly well the past two months while playing heavy minutes? Dunleavy sometimes matches defensively against shooting guards when Jimmy Butler takes on the small forward. Friday was one of those occasions with Butler limiting Paul George to 3-of-13 shooting. George did manage a triple double, though, finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
At shooting guard, Stephenson hit 7 of 11 shots for 15 points. Indiana's best weapon on this night was forward Luis Scola, who came off the bench to score 19 points in 20 minutes.
The Bulls are back in action Saturday at the UC against Philadelphia. The Sixers came close Friday, but extended their losing streak to 23 games with a 93-92 loss to New York.
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