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Bulls lose to Pacers in battle of contenders 111-101

IndianPacers guard George Hill left blocks shot over Chicago Bulls guard Marquis Teague during first half an NBA basketball game

Indiana Pacers guard George Hill, left, blocks the shot over Chicago Bulls guard Marquis Teague during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: March 6, 2013 6:26AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Whether or not their star players are on the court, the Bulls vs. the Indiana Pacers always has the look and feel of a future postseason matchup.

Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls still have the best road record in the NBA this season. Without all-star forward Danny Granger, the Pacers are tied for the best home record in the NBA, with 13 consecutive victories at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The delayed matchup of up-and-coming Eastern Conference contenders did not disappoint, though the outcome was less satisfying for the Bulls, who struggled defensively from the start and lost 111-101 on Monday night.

With Granger still out while he recovers from a knee injury that has sidelined him since the beginning of the season, forward David West filled the front-court void with 29 points. But it took two clutch baskets by all-star guard Paul George in teh final 3:30 to finally put the Bulls away and clinch the Pacers’ 14th consecutive home victory.

Marco Belinelli recovered from a second-quarter ankle injury to lead the Bulls with 24 points. Nate Robinson (19 points, nine assists), Luol Deng (13), Carlos Boozer (10), Taj Gibson (10), Jimmy Butler (10) and Richard Hamilton (10) all scored in double figures. But the Bulls needed much more than that against a Pacers team that, like the Bulls, is getting better without its best player.

The Bulls played without point guard Kirk Hinrich (elbow) and center Joakim Noah (foot), but Boozer returned after missing three games with a sore hamstring.

It was far from the Bulls’ best effort at both ends of the court. The Pacers, who came into the game ranked 29th in the NBA in scoring (92.0 points per game), shot 53 percent from the field, including 6-of-14 three-pointers. and outrebounded the Bulls 46-35. The Pacers hit their season average with 8:23 left in the game.

The Pacers hit nine of their first 10 shots and the Bulls missed five of their first six as the Pacers took a 13-2 lead.

The Bulls recovered to take a 27-26 lead on a nice move by Gibson for an inside basket. But the Pacers outscored the Bulls 12-4 in the final 3:40 of the first half to tka e 60-54 lead.

The Bulls were within 64-63 in the third quarter when the Pacers went on a 17-6 run to take an 81-69 lead with 3:39 left in the quarter.

The Bulls trailed 90-76 after Pacers guard George Hill hit a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter. But the Bulls made their move, as Belinelli scored three baskets and Jimmy Butler scored four points in a 12-2 run that cut the Pacers’ lead to 92-88 with 6:50 to play

That was as close as the Bulls would get. After Belinelli hit a floater to cut the deficit to 98-94 with 1:59 to go, George hit a three-pointer that gave the Pacers a 101-94 lead and put the Bulls in a hole from which they could not recover.



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