Pacers, Bulls continue charge for play-in tourney spot
Every rebuilding team is going to encounter setbacks during the course of a long NBA season. The Indiana Pacers are no exception.
One game after turning in an uninspired effort in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Pacers will look to regroup Sunday when they conclude a four-game road trip against the Chicago Bulls.
Indiana had won two straight and three of four before losing 110-99 to San Antonio on Thursday. Indiana was outscored 31-16 in the third quarter by the Spurs, who own the league's third-worst record.
"It's immaturity mostly," Pacers point guard T.J. McConnell said. "I think it's time for us to kind of look ourselves in the mirror and grow up here. We have great guys in the locker room, but we need to be better. Straight up. From top to bottom, we came out and thought it was gonna be easy. When you play like that, usually the result is what happened."
Indiana is hoping to have All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton back in the lineup after he missed Thursday's contest with tightness in his right calf.
The Pacers are 2-11 this season without Haliburton, who averages 20.1 points and 10.1 assists. Rookie Andrew Nembhard struggled in his place against San Antonio, finishing with four points on 0-of-8 shooting.
One bright spot was the play of guard Chris Duarte, who broke out of a lengthy shooting slump by scoring 18 points on 8 of 14 shooting, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
"It's been tough for him," Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. "Tonight, he got a little bit of an earlier opportunity and took advantage of it by playing really the right way. That was good to see."
The Pacers are in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Chicago. Both teams are battling for 10th place and a spot in the league's play-in tournament. The Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards currently hold the final two spots, two games better than the Bulls.
Chicago is reevaluating its game plan after losing 125-104 to Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns on Friday. Devin Booker scored 35 points and matched his career high with six 3-pointers for Phoenix, which was 20 of 47 (42.6 percent) from beyond the arc.
Durant added 20 points.
The Bulls are the NBA's 30th-ranked team in both 3-point attempts at 28.7 and makes at 10.3. Coach Billy Donovan said the team needs to improve those figures after shooting 7 of 23 from 3-point range against the Suns.
"I think we need to take more 3s. We have to change our shot profile when you're going against an elite offensive team," Donovan said. "I think getting downhill and spraying it out when we can is important."
DeMar DeRozan scored 31 points in the loss to Phoenix, while Zach LaVine had 27. DeRozan said the Bulls need to quickly turn their attention to Indiana.
"We gotta catch a rhythm here, but we can't look at the whole spectrum of it," DeRozan said. "We gotta take care of Sunday now. We need it. After we take care of that, we need to figure out what's next. Obviously, losing is discouraging. But I have a hope and faith that we have a fire under us, understanding what's ahead of us."
Chicago has dropped its past two meetings against the Pacers, including a 117-113 loss on Feb. 15. LaVine had 35 points and 11 rebounds in the contest and is averaging 25.2 points, six rebounds and five assists in his last five games against Indiana.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 4, 2023