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Bulls defense falls short against Pacers

Updated: March 6, 2013 6:33AM



INDIANAPOLIS — It was one of those nights.

The Bulls fell behind early, played poorly on defense, couldn’t hit big shots when they needed them most and couldn’t get a call in a 111-101 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Monday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

And when it was over, they were ready to move on, knowing they’ll be back. But as they know by now, the Pacers aren’t going away either.

That’s where the Bulls stand after a tough defeat against a division rival that is making as much progress as they are in trying to stay within reach of the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers, who rank 29th in the NBA in scoring with 92 points per game, shot 53 percent (39-for-74) and outrebounded the Bulls 47-35. Eventually the Bulls are going to have to solve forward David West (29 points on 11-for-18 shooting), wing guard Paul George (21 points, 11 rebounds) and point guard George Hill (22 points on 7-for-10 shooting, six assists).

‘‘Sometimes guys get hot,’’ said Bulls guard Nate Robinson, who scored 19 and had nine assists. ‘‘George Hill was 9-for-11? He missed two shots. That’s my man. I feel like that’s on me. We have no excuses. They flat-out beat us. They made shots. I mean, you have Lance Stephenson step back and making threes. I mean, seriously, come on. Not taking anything away from [him], but that’s not his game.’’

In reality, Stephenson was 1-for-4 on three-pointers in scoring 15 points. But that’s how tough it was for the Bulls. It seemed like everybody on the Pacers hit big shots.

But when you allow 111 points to a team averaging 92, it’s a little bit of everything.

‘‘We’ve got to play better defense,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said.

The Pacers hit their first six shots and nine of their first 10 to take a 13-2 lead. The Bulls played catch-up from there and took a 27-26 lead in the second quarter and led 44-40 with 6:28 left before halftime. But it took a toll and the Pacers outscored the Bulls 12-4 in the final 3:35 of the half to take a 60-54 lead.

‘‘You have to give them credit. They’re a great defensive team,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘Anytime you make a commitment in one area, you’re giving something up. We had to get out of that hold. So now you’re scrambling from there. We were chasing our tail.

‘‘We were in a position five minutes to go, very winnable. We had a couple of plays that we have to execute better. And we didn’t get it done.’’

The Bulls trailed 90-76 after Hill hit a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter. But the Bulls made their move, as Marco Belinelli scored three baskets and Jimmy Butler scored four points in a 12-2 run that cut the 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.

Belinelli overcame a sprained ankle to lead the Bulls with 24 points. The Bulls had six players in double figures, but four of them had 10 — Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Richard Hamilton and Butler. Luol Deng added 13, but made only four of 18 shots.



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