A second sellout crowd of a young NBA season stood and applauded as the Indiana Pacers walked off the Bankers Life Fieldhouse floor Friday night.
The Blue & Gold bounced the Chicago Bulls 104-92 to improve to 10-5 and hop over their Eastern Conference rivals into second place.
This one was part payback, for losing by one point in the Windy City last week.
But from the sound of what Paul George has been saying lately, the two-time All-Star is convinced his team is getting overlooked. George was asked about the “overlooked” comment he made after Tuesday night’s road win at Washington.
“Yeah, we are, we are,” he said. “But that’s another story. Again, we have to focus on what we have control over.”
Perhaps besting the Bulls could change some minds with some positive publicity?
“We’ll see tomorrow,” George said with a skeptical sigh. He’s not exactly convinced.
Perhaps it’s because he still thinks the refs don’t give him enough calls. He thought he was fouled by Jimmy Butler in the final seconds of that previous loss to the Bulls. He was determined to not let the referees determine this outcome, although he was assessed a technical foul for a reaction to a call.
George scored a game-high 33 points. It’s the fifth time this season he’s topped 30. He’s had at least 20 in 11 consecutive games.
The Pacers have won 10 of 12 after an 0-3 start.
“I think we had a belief of what we can be as a basketball team this year,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We came out of the gates a little slow, but the mindset was, ‘It’s a hiccup and this isn’t what we’re going to be.’”
The Bulls (9-5) led in the opening minutes, but by quarter’s end, the Pacers were ahead 30-18. And the home team never trailed again.
“We felt like we owed those guys one,” said guard Monta Ellis. “We let one go in Chicago. We were ready. We were hungry and we wanted it.”
Forward C.J. Miles scored all 16 of his points in the first half. Center Ian Mahinmi had 15, Ellis 14 and reserve Lavoy Allen 12 points and 10 rebounds. George Hill didn’t score much with six points, but he grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Pacers outscored the Bulls 21-5 in fast break points, 20-10 in points off turnovers and 42-28 in points in the paint.
They entered as the NBA’s leading 3-point shooters after making a record 19-of-26 at Washington. They cooled off considerably in this one, hitting just 8-of-28 (28.6 percent).
But on a night when two regular reserves were missing from the lineup and just two reserves scored, the Pacers led comfortably for much of the game and put this one away with a strong finish. The Bulls continually pushed, getting to within six points several times in the final quarter, but then the Pacers would pull away.
Bulls guard Derrick Rose, the 2011 NBA MVP, scored just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting. Butler had 16 on 4-of-10 shooting. The only Chicago player who had a decent night was forward Nikola Mirotic, who scored 25 points.
“We’ve got guys that take pride in guarding their man,” George said. “A lot of times we’re playing small lineups and it allows us to switch.”
Ah yes, the small-ball style. It’s working so far in Indiana, if in fact anyone outside of Indiana notices.
“I really like what we have on this team,” Vogel said.
Phillip B. Wilson also can be found on Facebook and Google+.