Running thoughts: Bulls 119, Pacers 107

CHICAGO, Ill. — Here are my running thoughts from the Pacers’ 119-107 loss to the Chicago Bulls Friday night at the United Center.

  • Pacers entered this matchup with three straight wins in the series, including both of their previous meetings this season.
  • Victor Oladipo missed his second consecutive game due to right knee soreness. Coach Nate McMillan explained pregame that Oladipo “needs to rest the knee” and would be reevaluated in a few days.
  • Kris Dunn was a late scratch, out with left patella tendonitis. Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant started in his place.
  • On top of the fact that it is snowing and about 15 degrees outside, the United Center is cold. And it’s always that way, partly because ice is down for hockey (Chicago Blackhawks) and partly because it’s a drafty building. Doesn’t mean players are used to it, though.
  • After a 6-2 stat, the Pacers fell behind 21-12 to the Bulls, who got eight quick ones from center Robin Lopez.
  • It took Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic less than two minutes to make an impact. He quickly drained three 3s, a quick reminder to the Pacers that he’s shooting 48 percent from distance this season (28 of 59)
  • Bulls owned quarter 1, 37-27. They made five 3s, shot 58%, and assisted on 11 of 14 FGs. Pacers got 11 in the 1Q from Darren Collison.
  • Early appearances made by guard Joe Young and forward Alex Poythress, whose two-way contract was converted into a guaranteed deal this week.
  • Strong take there by Bojan Bogdanovic after he got the steal. Impressive finish in traffic. (Click here to watch it.)
  • This game has been similar to their last meeting three weeks ago in Indy. The Pacers trailed by 17 in the first half by two points, 98-96 … but the Bulls gained confidence and have since won nine of their last 11 games.
  • Pacers’ first free throws in the game were attempted (and made) by Darren Collison with 1:38 left in the half. The Bulls were 6 for 6 at that point.
  • After getting down 18, the Pacers closed the half by scoring six in a row to trim their deficit to 12. They allowed 10 3-points (on 21 attempts) and were outscored by 18 points from beyond the arc. That must change.
  • Pacers didn’t shoot a foul shot until 1:38 mark of the second quarter. Their first attempts of the second half come 1:21 seconds in, and it brought them to within nine.
  • Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis got extended playing time together in the third quarter with Turner matching up against Mirotic. Turner is more agile and is better at defending the arc.
  • Fan behind me: “I like Lance [Stephenson]. He’s the only Indiana Pacer I like, that swerve and jerk style.”
  • After a 12-point third quarter, Darren Collison had 27 points; that’s three shy of his season high. He started the fourth on the bench, and had team massage therapist Andrei Mikhailau work on his left leg.
  • As you would expect in Chicago, the Bulls had a terrific group of high-flying dunkers during the first timeout of the final quarter. Fantastic group. The best I’ve seen.
  • I’m on my third coffee of the day. It’s still cold in here.
  • Bulls went in front by 18 after their 17th 3-pointer of the evening. The Pacers answered with the next seven points,  3-ball from Collison — to give him 30, matching a season high— and consecutive layups from Lance.
  • Collison: “I think the biggest thing is just having mental lapses throughout the games. And it’s causing us to lose focus and then whenever it seems like we’re trying to hit a run, they made a play.
  • “Everybody has a bad stretch. We’ve yet to have our bad stretch and I think we’re hitting it right now. So we got to stay mentally strong like Nate [McMillan] said and continue to stay together and who knows, one win may get us back on track. And that’s what it’s about.”
  • Ultimately, the Bulls sharpshooting from range was too much for the Pacers to overcome. They give up a season-best 18 3s to the Bulls, who outscored them by 33 points from 3-point land. Mirotic hit eight of them and scored 28.
  • McMillan: “We got to get up on guys. We knew this team has been improving over the last couple of weeks and part of it was due to how hard they play defensively, good ball movement. But they’ve been shooting the three extremely well, and we just did not challenge their threes.”
  • Thad Young (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists): “Man, they were just teeing ’em up. … They didn’t hesitate at all and they just shot, and they made a lot of them tonight. When guys get hot like that it’s hard to stop them.”
  • Bulls first-round pick Lauri Markkanen (7th overall) scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed seven board.
  • McMillan: “This is a part of seeing the growth of this team. We did some good things here in the month of November and December, and now teams are playing better basketball and we’ll see who we are and what we have.”
  • Lance Stephenson matched his season high with 18 points, and was one rebound shy of his second double-double this season.
  • After the game, there appeared to be several good conversations going on about the game and what went wrong. That’s a positive. You want to see guys upset with a performance and discussing how to prevent it from happening again.
  • Up next: The Pacers (19-16) return home to host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday for the only time this season. Indy native Jeff Teague suffered Grade 1 Left MCL sprain and is out indefinitely.

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