It looked like a schedule loss on paper and that’s exactly what it was
This matchup was going to be a huge test for the Chicago Bulls as they were going to have to fight off the weariness caused by a grueling schedule but also play a solid team in the Indiana Pacers. Chicago faced a flurry of western conference playoff teams during their road trip, which ended three days ago, and were on the second game of a back to back after playing the Knicks on Sunday. This had all the makings of a schedule loss and it’s exactly what happened and more. From the get-go Indiana jumped all over a sleepwalking Chicago team, going up double digits early in the first quarter. From then on, things went from bad to worse as the Pacers kept piling it on the Bulls in a 109-77 blowout loss. It was easily Chicago’s worst loss of the season, supplanting the loss to the Warriors two weeks ago. DeMar DeRozan was Chicago’s leading scorer in this one with 18 points while Zach LaVine had 17. No other Bull had more than eight points.
Chicago’s offensive numbers are as expected from a team which lost by 32. The Bulls shot just 36.5 percent from the field and 21.4 from three. They even uncharacteristically went 60 percent from the line, something you don’t often see from one of the better FT shooting teams in the league. It wasn’t turnovers which plagued the Bulls as they committed just nine but they were taking difficult jumpers and their offense didn’t have its usual spark to it.
From the opening tip, the Bulls looked like a team that was out of gas. They came out of the gates flat and the Pacers pounced on the opportunity to build up a huge lead. They went on a 12-0 run just two minutes into the game, forcing Billy Donovan to call a timeout in the middle of it. Even when Chicago responded with a basket, the Pacers would counter right back with a mini-run. Indiana extended their lead to as much as 18 in the first and it could have been worse if not for some pull-up shots by DeRozan at the end of the quarter. It was a 31-16 game after one and it was clear the Bulls would need a monumental effort to get back into this one.
The second quarter saw an improvement offensively from the Bulls. They scored 30 points with their top two scorers leading the way. LaVine started to get some shots to fall and racked up 12 points in the quarter while DeRozan had eight. But Indiana’s defense was still causing problems as the Bulls had to fight just to get quality looks at the baskets. A lot of the shots LaVine and DDR made in the second quarter were contested ones. Despite playing better on offense, Chicago’s defense just could not stop the Pacers. The Bulls closed the gap to nine points multiple times in the second, only to see a flurry of baskets in response by Indiana. The Pacers were cooking offensively with all five starters in double digits by halftime. Malcolm Brogdon had nine points including one at the horn to cap off a 9-2 to end the half and to make it a 21 point deficit for the Bulls.
Halftime didn’t seem to give Chicago a spark as again they came out ice cold from the field on offense. The starters had a rough game as a unit and looked completely out of sync as shots they normally make weren’t falling. It was on display at the start of the third as Indiana expanded their lead before Donovan went to his bench less than four minutes into the quarter. The reserves couldn’t give a spark either as the Pacers just kept piling it on Chicago. Indiana worked itself up to 30 point lead in the final minute of third, sealing shut any hope of a Bulls furious rally in fourth quarter.
Down 28 with 12 minutes to go, Donovan smartly took out his starters and put in both Matt Thomas and Alize Johnson. He then subbed in Marko Simonovic and Devon Dotson with six minutes to go as this was a chance for the guys on the end of the bench to get some playing time. Indiana had their starters out there till halfway through the fourth but then Rick Carlisle emptied his bench as well. The game got so out of hand, it had a clearly frustrated Chicago crowd voice their displeasures about other sports in the city as well.
Bulls fans are watching a blowout so they started a “Fire Nagy!” chant
— Stadium (@Stadium) November 23, 2021
By the time the game was over, the final score was 109-77 Pacers as Chicago scored their lowest point total of the season.
Coby White, who got the start over the injured Alex Caruso, had a rough game as he scored just four points on two of 10 shooting while also grabbing five rebounds. Tony Bradley had six points and five rebounds. Lonzo Ball really struggled in this one. He missed all seven of his field goal attempts and finished with zero points although he did add five rebounds.
The bench gave Chicago some spark, helping them cut the lead in the second quarter, but struggled as well. Javonte Green had three points and four boards while Derrick Jones Jr. had eight points and five rebounds. Ayo Donsumu had seven points, knocking down three of his four shooting attempts.
Dotson and Simonovic finished with two and one point respectively while Matt Thomas hit one of his four three-point attempts to finish with five points. Troy Brown Jr. found himself back in the rotation thanks to the absence of Caruso and played 30 minutes. He scored six points but struggled from the field with just two of nine shooting. He was one of five Bulls who finished with five rebounds.
This a rough watch from the get-go for Chicago. Offensively they looked tired and were forcing a ton of contested shots. It didn’t help that Myles Turner decided to make his presence felt in this game as he blocked four shots. Defensively the Bulls weren’t up for it either. They left shooters open on the three-point line and gave up drive after drive to the basket by Indiana.
In an 82 game season, these types of nights will happen. There will be some games where Chicago just doesn’t have it. But they have to bounce back from this as they play three more games this week. The schedule gets easier for the Bulls in their next game as they travel to Texas to play the Houston Rockets.