In a battle of two of the NBA's elite defensive units, the Indiana Pacers outlasted the Chicago Bulls in a high-scoring affair. Led by David West's game-high 29 points, the Pacers secured a 111-101 victory to pull even with Chicago atop the Central Division.
After the night, Indiana and Chicago are both 29-19, and the race for the Central Division crown has officially begun.
So, how did it all go down?
Nate Robinson, CHI: A-
While his teammates failed to show up, little Nate Robinson came up in a big way.
Robinson's shot-making was the only form of hope the Chicago Buls possessed during the third quarter, as he scored eight points in the period and made a phenomenal defensive play on Paul George to create a late turnover.
Although Taj Gibson's ensuing buzzer-beater was negated, Robinson was able to breathe life into the Bulls entering the fourth.
Robinson continues to be one of the league's best sixth men, and, in a starting role, his efficiency was not lost. Robinson finished with a high-quality 19 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals on 7-of-15 shooting.
George Hill, IND: A
George Hill started out hot and led Indiana to a commanding first-half lead. Hill did so by making his first seven shots, including three three-pointers.
The most impressive shot of all came during the third quarter, when Hill drained a contested three which turned into a four-point play. A four-point play which included an off-ball foul.
To open up the fourth, we saw another three-ball from Hill.
Hill was much more than a shooter on this evening, however, as he put his body on the line for the sake of the team. That includes a loose ball in which he dove across the floor to recover and call a timeout in the third, helping his Pacers assume full control of the game.
Hill finished with 22 points and six assists on 7-of-10 shooting for the game. His shots from beyond the arc proved to be the difference when it was all was said and done.
Hill is in the running for the game ball with his performance.
Richard Hamilton, CHI: C
As a shooter, Richard Hamilton had a very solid performance. He consistently made jump shots and spaced the floor for the Bulls en route to 10 points on the evening.
Unfortunately, Hamilton also committed a costly technical foul during the third quarter.
This was the theme of Hamilton's evening, as every shot made came with a poor result elsewhere. That was never more true than on the defensive end of the floor. Hamilton struggled all night with defending Lance Stephenson and provided poor help to interior scorers.
A solid performance on offense, but weak in all other facets.
Lance Stephenson, IND: B
Lance Stephenson is one of those players who has the capacity for statistical greatness but makes his money doing the things that you may not always see in the box score. For instance, Stephenson was the agitator who forced Taj Gibson to force a senseless off-ball foul.
Stephenson also threw down a monster dunk and screamed in the opponent's face. Passion.
Stephenson continued his great play in the fourth quarter, hitting a clutch shot and making a beautiful adjustment to overcome the off-ball screens. Marco Belinelli can testify to how effective Stephenson was in such a capacity.
It was a night of the little things, but they were all important. A purely solid performance by Stephenson.
Luol Deng, CHI: D+
In a battle of All-Star small forwards, Luol Deng failed to show up in Indiana.
Deng converted just 4-of-18 field-goal attempts and committed five personal fouls. Although he held Paul George in check (for the most part), Deng also allowed his counterpart to take over in the clutch.
Whether it's fatigue or just an off night, something was wrong with Luol Deng. This was on full display when Deng failed to corral a late offensive rebound. Instead, it was Paul George who knocked the ball loose.
Deng was consistently out of position on defense, as he appeared to be searching for ways to turn turnovers into points. Unfortunately, Deng blocked just one shot and came up with no steals.
Again a division rival who happens to be an All-Star, Deng put up a dud.
Paul George, IND: A-
One way or another, Paul George always finds a way to piece together late-game heroics and a well-rounded stat line.
Monday night was no different, as George finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists. George also picked up two steals, two blocks and two three-pointers.
One of those three-balls came with 1:17 remaining and effectively ended this game. We'd also be remiss to ignore George's highlight-reel ability.
Such was on full display when teammate George Hill found him for an alley-oop. An oop that George turned into a reverse dunk. Monster.
That's why George is an All-Star, folks. That's why George is the player local fans are labeling as their best player since Reggie Miller.
Taj Gibson, CHI: B-
Taj Gibson has developed a reputation as one of the league's most versatile and dominant defenders. With overwhelming power and explosive athleticism, it's not too difficult to see why.
Unfortunately, Gibson disappeared on the defensive end of the floor Monday night. When he wasn't allowing David West to score at will, he was getting caught on screens and leaving his man wide open. Solid statistics don't change that fact.
Gibson made a handful of costly mistakes during the third quarter. That includes an off-ball offensive foul in which he threw an elbow at Lance Stephenson, and a pass to no one that sailed out of bounds. This helped Indiana jump out to a double-digit lead.
With all of this being noted, Gibson finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks. For that reason, many will jump the gun and say he deserves a higher grade.
The fact of the matter is, numbers are not nearly as important as recurring mistakes.
David West, IND: A+
Time and time again, David West comes out and is the top source of offense for the Indiana Pacers offense. It was no different this contest.
West finished with a game-high 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the floor, adding nine rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal. What more could you ask for?
West was consistent with his mid-range jump shot and relentless in his attack of the basket. For all of his offensive brilliance, however, West's best moment came when he blocked a Taj Gibson dunk attempt with less than three minutes remaining.
West doesn't get enough respect for what he does. Against the Bulls, he commanded it.
Carlos Boozer, CHI: D-
After dominating the month of January, Carlos Boozer returned to his frustrating ways in his February debut.
Statistically speaking, Boozer finished with 10 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes. He shot 4-of-12 from the floor and was a virtual non-factor on defense. Boozer also failed to turn offensive rebounds into points.
Known for his mid-range shooting ability, Boozer missed a handful of open shots. This was the theme of the night for Chicago, as their stars failed to step up when they were needed.
Boozer's inability to convert his shots neutralized his contributions to the team.
Roy Hibbert, IND: C
Much like Boozer, Roy Hibbert performed weakly from a statistical standpoint. Hibbert finished with six points on 3-of-11 shooting from the floor. This is a continuation of a mind-blowing regression on the offensive end of the floor for the former All-Star.
With that being said, Hibbert made defensive plays when they mattered most and grabbed nine rebounds.
Hibbert was able to come up with a key stop on Marco Belinelli during the final three minutes of the game. He also forced the ball off Belinelli and created a turnover in the process.
It may be tough to believe this to be a success, but Hibbert's defensive prowess continues to help offset his offensive shortcomings.
Jimmy Butler, CHI: C-
Jimmy Butler has been a revelation for the Chicago Bulls in an injury-ridden season.
Unfortunately, Butler was unable to provide any form of consistency against Indiana. In fact, Butler can be classified by an adjective you may never hear again in conjunction: a weakness.
Normally a work horse, Butler played out of character, failing to catch a pass from Marco Belinelli that should have led to an easy two points. A key two points that would have cut the lead to two during the fourth quarter.
Butler will bounce back, but Monday night, it was rough. Three steals only slightly save his grade.
Ian Mahinmi, IND: C+
Ian Mahinmi played 17 quality minutes, putting up six points and five rebounds. Mahinmi also picked up two steals and grabbed two offensive rebounds.
What Mahinmi did best, however, is set screens for his guards.
Mahinmi was everywhere on offense, opening up lanes for shooters such as George Hill and Lance Stephenson. This helped Hill make his first seven shots and David West convert with minimal defense between he and the basket.
Another quality evening from a Pacer who goes beyond the numbers.
Chicago Bulls: B+
Without Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and, of course, Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls placed a heavy burden on their second unit.
Reserves that don't usually see minutes were active and relied upon for production in an offensive slugfest.
Led by Marco Belinelli, the reserves did just that. Belinelli finished with 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He scored 13 of his points during the fourth quarter and nearly led a comeback victory.
Although the playing time and contributions were limited for other reserves, both Daequan Cook and Marquis Teague provided solid minutes.
A very nice effort by Belinelli and the reserves.
Indiana Pacers: C+
The Indiana second unit did not perform well from a statistical standpoint. But basketball games are won by more than numbers, of course—they're won by the work in the trenches.
Tyler Hansbrough and company embodied that truth.
Hansbrough was active on defense and persistent on the offensive glass. His contributions created second-chance scoring opportunities for the Pacers and limited the Bulls' chances.
The statistics were weak, but the quality of play was not.