Chicago Bulls finally win a close one at Indiana
With center Wendell Carter Jr. recovered from a quad bruise, the Bulls seemed a little more whole Monday night at Indiana.
Even with Carter limited to 21 minutes in his first game back, they protected the paint a little better, worked the ball inside well and pulled out a 120-112 overtime victory over the Pacers.
The Bulls (11-15) ended a 10-game losing streak to the Pacers and had dropped eight in a row at Indianapolis.
The Pacers aren't at full strength, but this was a nice achievement for the Bulls, pulling out a close game on the road against a team that's been in the playoffs. Before Monday, the Bulls were just 1-9 this season in games decided by 4 points or fewer.
"It was a tough game for both teams to score," said Zach LaVine, who led the Bulls with 30 points. "I think we just stuck with it and we executed down the stretch a lot better than we have been before. That's what it takes to win games."
Down the stretch and into overtime, coach Billy Donovan went with a small lineup that had Thad Young at center, with Garrett Temple and Denzel Valentine at forward.
It worked well, since the Bulls started overtime with a Temple hook shot, Valentine 3-pointer and Young tip-in. When Coby White scored on a driving lay-in, the Bulls led 114-107 with 1:51 left.
"We just wanted to try to space the floor, and in spacing the floor we wanted to put some shooting out there," Donovan said. "It was really us trying to have multiple ballhandlers on the floor because I thought at times we struggled just initiating an generating offense with their physicality."
White added 19 points and Temple had 16. Young finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Carter had 11 points and 9 boards.
At the end of regulation, the Bulls trailed by 2 when LaVine hit a step-back 3-pointer over Pacers power forward Domantas Sabonis with 27.2 seconds left. After a Sabonis miss, LaVine was fouled and split the free throws to keep the Bulls' lead at 105-103 with 19.2 seconds remaining.
That opened the door for Malcolm Brogdon to tie the score on a driving bank shot. The Bulls had 10.5 seconds left to set up a final shot, but LaVine missed a 19-foot pullup jumper and the game headed to overtime.
Overall, Sabonis had a frustrating night. He finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds but hit just 7 of 18 shots, mostly from close range, and ended the game with 5 fouls.
Young, a former Pacers teammate, guarded Sabonis down the stretch. After playing his first game since Jan. 18, Carter talked about his strategy for playing against the high-scoring big man.
"Simply just hit him first," he said. "He loves to get into your body. He's not the highest jumper on the court, so he likes to get into your body so he can get his angles. You hit him first, you can kind of control what you want him to do."
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