Indiana Pacers hold off late Chicago Bulls rally
by Mike Wells, USA TODAY Sports
This was one the Indiana Pacers needed to win. Losing to the Chicago Bulls would be unacceptable.
Not if they wanted to take a significant step in winning the Central Division.
That meant beating the Bulls so that they would have the edge in head-to-head match ups this season, in case the two teams finish the season with the same record.
The Bulls made the Pacers work for every point on offense and they had them scrambling on defense at times on the other end of the court.
But when the final horn sounded, the Pacers walked off the court with 97-92 victory in front of a neutral crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday.
“They say to be the best you have to beat the best,” Pacers guard George Hill said. “Today we took that as a challenge to go out and play hard.”
Hill blew a chance to put the game away when he missed two free throws with 13.3 seconds left.
The Bulls got the rebound and called timeout to advance the ball into the front court. Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer with 7.0 seconds left, but the ball went out of bounds off a Pacer giving Chicago another chance. Tyler Hansbrough poked the ball away from Vladimir Radmanovic. Pacers power forward David West was immediately fouled and he made both free throws to seal the game for them.
The Pacers have a four-game lead – five games with the tiebreaker – over the Bulls in the division.
West led all scorers with 31 points. Hill added 21 points.
“Knowing it’s a long season, we still have 20-plus game left,” Hill said. “Anything can happen. We know it’s a good team over there and they’re going to make a push to try to take over the division. We have to maintain.”
You’re fooling yourself if you think the Bulls are going to put the division on a platter and bring it down to the Pacers on I-65.
That’s not Chicago’s style.
The Pacers will have to keep working and not get complacent because the Bulls will continue to breathe down their necks until the season ends.
Sunday was a prime example … [For more on Indiana Pacers hold off late Chicago Bulls rally, click here.]