An offensive outburst steered the Chicago Bulls to their season-high fifth straight win on Wednesday night.
The Bulls will look to keep the streak and their rhythm intact Friday when they visit the Indiana Pacers in a New Year’s Eve matinee.
Chicago shot a season-best 61.9 percent while dishing a season-high 38 assists in Wednesday’s 131-117 victory against the Atlanta Hawks and have won five in a row for the first time since December 2017.
“We’re extremely good. Well-coached, talented. Can play with anyone,” the Bulls’ Coby White said.
White (17 points, 12 assists) and Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 20 rebounds) both notched double-doubles for Chicago, which had seven players in double figures. Zach LaVine (25 points) and DeMar DeRozan (20) led the way.
Indiana has lost two straight and three of four games. The Pacers are coming off a 116-108 home loss to Charlotte on Wednesday that saw them unable to recover from an early 28-16 hole.
The Pacers drew to within four points on multiple occasions in the fourth quarter but were unable to get back to a one-possession game.
Ultimately, the slow start and a season-best 35 points from Charlotte’s Terry Rozier proved too difficult to surmount.
“We let them get too many easy shots (at the start of the game),” said Oshae Brissett, who scored 14 points off the bench for Indiana. “Terry Rozier, he had a hell of a game. He was hitting some tough shots, but the other guys were wide open. … So we knew coming into the third quarter we were gonna have to really press up on them defensively and get out and running offensively.”
Caris LeVert scored a team-high 27 points and has led the Pacers in scoring in four of their past five games. Domantas Sabonis contributed 15 points and 18 rebounds for his 25th double-double of the season.
Still, the Pacers continue to search for a consistent offensive flow, and it won’t get easier. Top scorer Malcolm Brogdon, who has missed the past three games with an Achilles injury, will have a delayed return to action. ESPN reported Thursday that Brogdon, guard Chris Duarte and forward Isaiah Jackson entered the NBA health and safety protocol, joining guard Jeremy Lamb.
As the Pacers shuffle the rotation, they will hope recent signee Keifer Sykes can help fill a void as the facilitator. He went scoreless in 10 minutes against the Hornets in his NBA debut.
“He can bring energy on the defensive end, and on the offensive end he makes the right read, so that’s perfect,” Sabonis said. “That’s what we need.”
Bulls coach Billy Donovan remains in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocol. Interim coach Chris Fleming said he likely will continue in the role for at least the next two games.
White has appreciated Fleming’s approach just the same.
“He doesn’t really tell you what you want to hear,” White said. “He’s more of a tell-you-what-you-need-to-hear type of guy. He’s a straight-up dude.”
Chicago and Indiana have split two previous meetings this season, both at the United Center. The Pacers rolled past the Bulls 109-77 on Nov. 22 before the Bulls evened the season series with a 113-105 home victory on Sunday.
LaVine and DeRozan boosted the Bulls with 32 and 24 points, respectively, while Vucevic posted a 16-point, 15-rebound double-double. LeVert led the Pacers with 27 points.
–Field Level Media