Paul George hit just 2 of 18 shots in the last 2 games of Indiana’s West Coast trip. So when the Indiana Pacers landed in Indianapolis after a red-eye flight from Oakland, George went straight to the gymnasium for 2 hours of shooting.
The additional practice paid off, as George poured in 34 points and Indiana won a defensive fight against Bulls 80-76 at the United Center. Baseball lines
“The way I shot the ball against Sacramento and Golden State, it truly brought me down,” George asserted. “I let the team down by the way I shot the ball. I had to get in the gymnasium and put up 500 shots — from floaters to mid-range to 3-pointers. I mixed it all up. That’s something I need to continue to keep doing.”
Pacers trailed by 4 points with less than 4 minutes remaining. Then George capped a 6-0 run and put the Indiana Pacers ahead 76-74 with 2:05 left on a 16-foot pull-up jumper.
The Chicago Bulls missed 2 opportunities to tie the score and Lance Stephenson got loose under the basket for a layup that made it 78-74 with 45.5 seconds remaining.
Carlos Boozer answered with a layup, Chicago’s 1st basket in almost exactly 3 minutes, but he missed the free throw that could have made it a 3-point play. David West missed a jumper from the top of the key, giving the Chicago Bulls possession with 14.1 seconds left trailing by 2.
The next play caused some controversy.
Bulls forward Luol Deng made a back-door cut caught a pass from Joakim Noah and collided with Pacers center Roy Hibbert near the basket. As Deng hit the floor, no foul was called.
West collected the rebound and hit 2 clinching free throws with 5.2 seconds left. Inside the locker room, Deng asserted the back-door cut was a designed play and blamed himself for not getting the best of the collision.
“I’m angry at myself for not getting a shot up,” he said. “I lost the ball, but if I would have got a shot up, even if I missed it, a teammate could have got the rebound. That’s the only thing I’ve got to do better with that play.”
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel saw the play much differently.
“You’re allowed to jump straight up,” Vogel recounted. “No matter where you are, you’re allowed to jump straight up and absorb contact. When (Hibbert) learned that and went away from trying to draw charges, he went from not having the ability to stay on the court to one of the greatest defensive centers in the NBA.”
The Indiana Pacers opened a 60-51 lead with just under 3 minutes left in the 3rd. Robinson came off the bench to spark a Chicago comeback. The 5-foot-9 guard scored 11 points in a 17-6 run, which sent the Chicago to a 72-68 lead with 5:10 remaining.
After Deng hit a jumper to make it 74-70, the Bulls went cold. West’s short flip in the lane tied the score.
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