INDIANAPOLIS — Panic doesn’t happen four games into a season.
Frustration does. And that was evident in the Bulls’ actions as they trudged off the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court as 97-80 losers to the Pacers and, later, their words.
Not only do the Bulls keep losing games, dropping to 1-3 to the league’s only unbeaten team, they keep sounding the same while doing so.
“It’s frustrating, but we’re pro athletes,” Derrick Rose said. “We know that it’s only the beginning of the season. We can’t let it get that frustrating. We know that if we keep working hard like we’re doing, we’re going to catch a rhythm soon.”
The Pacers displayed their defensive rhythm throughout, holding the Bulls to 35.6 percent shooting. And they broke open a two-point game on Lance Stephenson’s 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 58 seconds left, outscoring the Bulls 30-11 down the stretch.
Paul George’s 21 points led five players in double figures for the Pacers, who are 5-0 for the first time as an NBA franchise and first time in franchise history since 1971-72 in the old ABA.
“They wanted it more than us,” Joakim Noah said. “They got to every loose ball, every rebound. Just took it away. Disappointing.”
Indeed, the Pacers enjoyed a 52-40 rebounding edge and were by far the aggressor throughout. The Bulls shot just 29.7 percent in the second half and failed to crack 20 points in either the third or fourth quarters.
“We’re inconsistent,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have a good quarter, then a bad quarter. You can’t win in this league like that.”
Rose sank his first three shots and appeared headed toward his first full breakout game. But foul trouble slowed him first and then the Pacers’ defense did. He scored just five points with one field goal in the second half and sat from the 4:55 mark of the third until 6:16 remained.
“At the end, they put George on me instead of C.J. (Watson), and I guess that’s what’s going to happen in the fourth quarter,” Rose said. “Almost every team did it — double-team or put a bigger guy on me. So that forces me to pass.”
With 6-for-15 shooting, Rose still hasn’t topped 50 percent for a game. He’s shooting 31 percent overall. Thibodeau called his game “another step in the right direction.”
“He’ll find his way,” Thibodeau said. “He was better. He had two great practices. So each day keep working on improving. Just slow down a little bit, let the game come to you, make the right plays.”
Strong reserve efforts had the Bulls in business until Stephenson and Luis Scola led an 18-5, fourth-quarter run. Watson capped it with a 3-pointer when the Bulls couldn’t rebound Stephenson’s missed free throw.
“We got beat in every facet — the rebounding, the defensive transition, turned it over,” Thibodeau said.
Does he believe the team is frustrated?
“I would say more determined,” Thibodeau said. “We have good character. We’re all disappointed. We know we have to do better. And we will.”