Playing without Luol Deng (wrist) and Taj Gibson (ankle) once again, the Chicago Bulls suffered their first home loss of the season at the hands of the Indiana Pacers, 95-90, Wednesday night at the United Center. The Bulls dropped to 16-4 on the season, 8-1 at home.
The Bulls placed all five starters in double figures, led by Derrick Rose's 24 points. However, the Pacers (12-5) had six and shot 47.5 percent from the field. Danny Granger poured in a team-high 22 points and nine rebounds and Roy Hibbert had 20 points and eight rebounds. David West added 14 points and seven rebounds and made several baskets when his team really needed them.
Ronnie Brewer again started in place of Deng and had his best outing of the season, posting 20 points, 10 rebounds, both of which season-highs, and five assists. Rip Hamilton, who had reached the 20-point plateau in the past two games, scored 17 points but missed 14-of-20 field-goals. Joakim Noah continued to display high-energy basketball, scoring 10 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking a shot, while Carlos Boozer struggled to find his offensive rhythm most of the game and had 11 points on 5-for-14 shooting.
Coach Tom Thibodeau's bunch survived the Pacers' quick start as Rose scored 12 straight points to end the first quarter. The Bulls led 54-44 through two quarters of play, finishing the first half on a 20-9 run powered by Brewer's 14 second-quarter points. As usual, they were moving the ball well and running in transition, putting up 13 assists and 14 fastbreak points in the first half. But the Pacers were the ones who played aggressively in the second half, outscoring the Bulls 31-20 in the third quarter. The visitors built a seven-point lead with almost four minutes to play, although the Bulls responded and following a Noah rebound, they were within 92-90 with 35 seconds to play. Then, Rose dished it out to Brian Scalabrine for a wide-open three-pointer, but the veteran forward missed it and Hibbert made an uncontested dunk after multiple loose-ball scrambles.
Both teams are clearly very familiar with each other, having faced off in a hard-fought, entertaining first-round playoff series last season and in a pair of preseason contests. Although Wednesday's game wasn't nearly as physical as last spring's matchup -- some of that most likely because Pacers enforcer Jeff Foster was out -- it was a statement win for the road team. Since taking over in the middle of last season, Indiana coach Frank Vogel has brought a confident attitude to his team, which truly believes it can get past the Bulls whenever the two clubs face each other. Of course, for the Bulls it's simply one loss, their first since Jan. 16, and should give them lots to work on, and Thibodeau will certainly make sure of that.
The Bulls shot just 40 percent from the field and 3-for-13 from three-point range. They had plenty of cold spells and couldn't get the big shot when they needed it. Hamilton, Rose and Boozer shot a combined 20-for-53 (37.7 percent). The Bulls had 13 first-half assists but only six in the second half, and they were also outrebounded 44-41. The "Bench Mob" had just eight points and six rebounds, with C.J. Watson missing all six of his attempts.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Thursday before wrapping up their four-game homestand on Friday night against Scott Skiles' Milwaukee Bucks (7-10).