George Hill added 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting and dished out six helpers for the Pacers, who picked up their 14th straight home victory at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and won their third straight overall. Lance Stephenson contributed 15 points, five assists and four rebounds in the victory.
Marco Belinelli paced Chicago with a season-high 24 points, despite playing on a bad ankle for the majority of the contest, and Nate Robinson added 19 points and nine assists for the Bulls, who lost for the second time in their last three games. Taj Gibson scored 10 points and pulled down 11 rebounds in defeat.
Hill and George stole the highlights late in the third quarter, as Hill dished out a perfect alley oop pass to George, who caught it for a reverse slam and 83-71 lead with 2:22 left in the stanza. The Pacers headed into the final quarter of play up 87-76.
Chicago, which was without Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich due to injuries, struggled offensively to open up the second half, connecting on just 8-of-22 shots from the floor, while being outscored in the paint, 12-2.
The Pacers led by 14 just seconds into the fourth quarter on Hill’s 3-pointer, but the Bulls and Belinelli fought back with a 12-2 run after his jumper brought the visitors within 92-88.
Stephenson had an answer with a trey and two free throws — in a span of 41 seconds — helping Indiana grab some breathing room with 6:06 remaining and a 96-88 advantage.
Belinelli again closed the deficit to four points with two minutes left, however, George’s dagger 3-pointer with 1:18 to play made it 101-94. Chicago hit 10-of-10 free throws to close out the game the rest of the way en route to improving to 19-3 in home contests this season.
Hill’s free throws 4 1/2 minutes into the contest increased Indiana’s opening edge to 15-4, before the visitors answered with a 25-13 flurry as Marquis Teague’s layup to close the first quarter made it 29-28. George provided some spark for the Pacers around the midway point of the stanza, as he stole Deng’s errant pass for a fastbreak, only to pass the ball behind his back and through his legs to find a streaking Hill for an easy lay-in.
Action in the second stanza stayed close with five ties, although Indiana ended the first half outscoring the Bulls 10-4 in the final 3:36 to take a 60-54 lead into halftime.
Notes: Indiana’s 14th straight home victory ties the longest for the Pacers since they won 14 in a row from Nov. 28, 2002 – Jan. 26, 2003 … Chicago became just the second team besides San Antonio, to score in triple digits in regulation play at Indiana this season … The Bulls fell to 14-8 outside the United Center and are the only team in the league with a better road record than at home … Hinrich is expected to miss one week after having an infection cleaned out of his right elbow in Chicago on Saturday, while Noah missed his third straight game due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
“Give credit to the Bulls for putting up a heck of a fight and being undermanned. They play the right way and they share the ball. Paul George and David West obviously carried us offensively and the work Paul did on Deng (Luol), he was 4-18, was big. He’s a great two way player. I’m proud of how we’re growing on the offensive end, still a few too many turnovers. We made a commitment to the extra pass. When the ball is moving we’ve got too many weapons to be as poorly efficient as we have been. (On George Hill) He’s one of the leaders in helping us grow on the offensive end. He’s one of the best on our team at reading defenses.”
“We knew what they were capable of regardless of who was out, who was playing, or who was on their reserve list. We know this team is coming to challenge us. We did a great job of dialing in on all of their guys. This was a huge win. We played the number one team in Miami and then New York. Chicago is right there. This is a big win for us, definitely playing against a division team. We played a great game and really battled.”
“More than anything, (Chicago) is division champs. We’re chasing them so we just approached this game knowing how well they are coached and how well they play. They’re just a tough team and we knew we’d have to bring our best effort. (What did the team do well tonight?) I thought we shared the ball, maybe passed up a little, but I thought collectively we were engaged with one another and helped one another. We just played a together game. (Dealing with three straight games) We dealt with it last year because of the short season. It’s just something where you have to make sure you’re prepared. We’ll get our rest tomorrow. We’ll figure out, in terms of our execution, how we need to approach a team in Atlanta that we struggled against. We just have to be ready to play this game.”