Carlos Boozer returned for the Bulls, but Chicago couldn't find enough defense to slow the Pacers down and ran out of gas offensively. In a game closer than the score due to Chicago keeping up the fouling game well past when it had a chance to work, Chicago fell to Indiana in one of the more home-cooked refereed games I've seen in awhile.
I don't typically complain too much about the refs, nor do I think the refs ever consciously try and pick one side to win a game vs the other. Every once in awhile you run into a game where everything goes your way. The Bulls have had games like that in their favor this year, and this was the exact opposite of that.
Starting early in the first quarter, the Bulls were called for touch fouls repeatedly while Roy Hibbert was allowed to use enough body contact inside the circle to knock people to the ground over and over while not getting called. The disparity was ridiculous, an even whistle and Hibbert would have fouled out in that first quarter (of course he would have actually been sent to the bench with two fouls, but you know what I mean).
The situation culminated when the refs gave the ball to the Pacers and refused to review the play when it was clearly Chicago basketball with 90 seconds left in the game, and the Bulls down four. Paul George knocked down a three and ended the Bulls chances to win, and if we play fantasy land where the Bulls are awarded possession instead and score, it's potentially a five point swing that hinged on that one call.
The call itself was so incredibly obvious that I can't believe they missed it in the first place, this wasn't a situation where the ball barely tipped of someone, Marco Belinelli grabbed the ball (while clearly in bounds) and whipped off Hibbert's chest and it came no where near touching anyone else. The fact that they missed it in the first place was ridiculous, the fact they wouldn't review it was mind boggling.
At any rate, that's the way the cookie crumbles, in an evenly reffed game, the Bulls may have prevailed or maybe not, but they've won games in the past due to some bad officiating, and I believe these things tend to balance over the long haul.
As for the game itself, Paul George showed Bulls fans whom may not have checked him out in awhile why he's a potential star player. He's a defensive beast with an emerging offensive game. He kept Luol Deng in check all night long, and while he didn't have a huge offensive game, he seemed to hit a clutch shot whenever the Pacers needed one.
So maybe getting Boozer back wasn't so great
Prior to his injury Carlos Boozer was playing at a very high level. In his return, he struggled badly on both ends of the floor. David West simply stole his lunch money and repeatedly beat him down the floor to get uncontested dunks/layups. It may simply be the case that Carlos's hamstring is still an issue, or it may simply be the case that he's still a lousy defender.
I'm not the biggest Boozer supporter, but I'll suggest at least some of the slowness getting back was due to recovery from the injury because even Boozer isn't typically this bad. That said, when not letting West beat him down the court, Carlos gave him way too much room on the perimeter allowing relatively uncontested 18 footers which West had no problem burying all night long.
When the Bulls tried smaller defenders on him, West simply bullied them inside. In short, David West had a monster game and was the primary difference maker for the Pacers.
Marco and Nate kept the Bulls going
The Bulls had an impressive seven players in double figures and after a slow start where they looked helpless for four minutes really were able to score at will against the Pacers. They were led by Marco Belinelli who shot 9/13 after coming off of a 1/8 night the previous game. He was injured early in the game while fouled on a three [which he still sunk] but returned afterwards and kept on scoring for Chicago.
Nate Robinson also played a fine all around game with 19 points and nine assists vs no turnovers and with consistent burn, the Bulls are seeing good Nate far more often than bad Nate lately. the fact that the players around him are higher caliber and playing at a higher level has helped as well as his assists are way up due to guys making shots and turnovers down due to get better looks quicker and earlier in the offense and not being pressed into desperation time as much at the end of the shot clock.
All in all, there are few complaints about the Bulls offensive performance. Deng and Boozer both struggled but the rest of the Bulls fared well against the Pacers.
Noah back Thursday?
Joakim Noah said he'd like to return from plantar fasciitis Thursday and if he's ready then by all means bring him back. However, this is one of those times where the Bulls and Joakim should make sure he's really ready. The Bulls play just four more games before the all-star break, and if Joakim misses those four more games then he can effectively have 18 days of rest from when he first sat out.
That's a nice good stretch to heal up, and it's not going to be the end of the world if the Bulls are missing Noah for four more games even if they dropped all four [which I doubt they would]. In short, the upside to playing is relatively small here if he's not healed, especially with an injury that can easily become recurrent like plantar fasciitis.
If he's good, that's fine, but it's not the time to play hero and get back on the court otherwise.