Once again, despite a good effort, the Bulls can’t get past the Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 05: Zach LaVine #8 of the Chicago Bulls dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 05, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – If the Bulls had a team to model themselves after, it could very well be their opponent on Tuesday night.

Despite losing star Paul George to injury in 2014-2015 and then being forced to trade him after he revealed he wouldn’t stay with the team beyond his contract, the Pacers have found a way to continue to have success. Even without Victor Oladipo, the standout acquired in the George trade that is out for the year with a quad injury, the team sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with hopes for spring success.

Meanwhile, the Bulls are still muddling through another difficult season after their window for a title closed a few years ago, eyeing a second-straight season without the playoffs as their fan base roots for luck in the lottery. While far apart in the standings and in franchise direction at the moment, the Bulls have managed to give the Pacers a fight in every one of their games this season.

That was the case on Tuesday in Indianapolis, but like the previous trio of games, the result was just the same. Just as they are in the standings, the Pacers came out on top.

A spirited Bulls’ effort, led by Zach LaVine’s 27 points, had the visitors in the lead with seven minutes to go, but it wouldn’t hold. A 20-10 Indiana run finished off a 105-96 victory for the Pacers and the season sweep against the Bulls, who fall to 18-47 on the season.

The contest was reminiscent of the previous meetings with the exception that Nate McMillan’s team pulled a little more away in the end. Their November 2nd contest in Chicago went down to the wire, with Darren Collison’s jumper with 18.5 left giving the Pacers a 107-105 win. In Jim Boylen’s first game as head coach following the firing of Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls held Indiana to just 90 points and were within three with 1:38 second to go before eventually falling by six points.

On January 4th, the teams played one of the more entertaining games of the season, with Lauri Markkanen forcing overtime with a three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left in regulation. After the forward tied the game again late in overtime with another long-distance shot, Oladipo played the hero as nailed a three-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining to give the Pacers a 119-116 victory.

Tuesday night the Bulls were down ten early but clawed back to make a run in the fourth quarter. LaVine’s slam over Myles Turner with 7:08 left – part of a seven-point run by the guard – put the Bulls in the lead 85-84. Then Bojan Bogdanovic (team-high 27 points) had a five-point run of his own to put the Pacers back into the lead, and with the help of Darren Collison (22 points), kept the Bulls from making another run.

So out come the brooms for Indiana for this season when it comes to their Central Division rivals who were competitive with each other on the court if not in the standings.

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