Playing without Richard Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson (and, of course, Derrick Rose), the Bulls fought admirably all night, getting 20 points apiece from Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler. However, it wasn't enough to upend the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers won thanks to a Herculean effort from David West, who scored 31 points off 11-of-18 shooting to lead all scorers. George Hill put in 21 off a perfect 6-of-6 from the floor.
Even though Chicago ultimately lost this game, you have to hand it to them—the Bulls played extraordinarily well given the circumstances.
Nate Robinson was nothing more than average. The point guard scored six points off 2-of-6 shooting and dished out six assists in 20 minutes of floor time. He also committed four fouls.
Robinson didn't even see much burn in the second half, with Tom Thibodeau electing to go with Marquis Teague and Marco Belinelli as his primary ball-handlers.
His minus-10 plus/minus rating is nothing to write home about, either.
Robinson has had his moments this season, but this game wasn't one of them. He certainly wasn't terrible, but he wasn't great, either.
How about Belinelli?
After scoring only five points in the first half, Belinelli exploded in the final 24 minutes, tallying 15 points and hitting big shot after big shot in the second half. He would finish with 20 points and five assists, hitting on four of his five three-point attempts.
Perhaps what was most impressive about Belinelli was how well he manned the point guard duties. He is a more-than-adequate ball-handler, and his ability to spell the floor general when needed is absolutely huge for this team.
Luol Deng did an incredible job on Paul George, holding him scoreless in the second and third period and 10 pints overall. Deng also hit some huge shots down the stretch, ending the contest with 15 points and five boards. He had some problems defending David West late, but you can't expect Deng to be able to effectively cover a man of West's size.
Deng was a bit M.I.A. offensively early on, but that was largely due to the fact that he was exerting most of his energy on the defensive end of the floor. While he only shot 5-of-13, he held George to 4-of-14 shooting and forced the Pacers All-Star to miss 10 of his last 11 shots.
Looking at the stat sheet, you wouldn't think Deng deserves so much praise, but that is why games aren't played on paper. The Duke product was very good on Sunday night.
Carlos Boozer didn't really do much of anything in this one, who tallied only 17 minutes and sat out the entire fourth quarter.
He scored six points and grabbed two boards and shot only 3-of-9 from the floor, bricking numerous jumpers. He also picked up a couple of silly fouls in the early going.
There really isn't much else to add other than mentioning that this certainly was another one of those nights where Boozer didn't live up to his contract.
This was a typical gutsy performance from Noah.
It wasn't like the historic triple-double he put up the other night, but it was still a very solid game. Noah scored 14 points, hauled in 10 rebounds and dished out five assists, demonstrating spectacular floor vision for a man of his size. That is nothing new with Noah, though, as he has always been a good passer.
The funny thing is, Noah made several other outstanding passes that didn't result in dimes, so his performance isn't even fully reflected on the stat sheet.
Noah's impact on the game is blatantly obvious, and his great understanding of team defense was on full display once again.
Jimmy Butler had a very nice game, putting up 20 points (11 in the fourth quarter alone) and pulling down four rebounds (three of them coming on the offensive end).
His decision-making is really tremendous for a player of his experience level, as Butler is clearly very comfortable having the ball in his hands in big spots. He was one of the key sources of offense for the Bulls down the stretch, and his hustle is also worth commending.
With Chicago being very shorthanded in this one, Thibodeau's club needed all it could get out of Butler, and it got that and more. The Bulls got one heck of a steal in the Marquette product.
When it looked like the game could get away from the Bulls in the second quarter, the bench did an outstanding job of scratching and crawling and keeping things close. Nazr Mohammed in particular was very impressive, scoring seven points in the period alone. He also had a facial dunk and finished with five rebounds. He played some fine interior defense, as well.
Teague was also solid during that second period, making some very nice passes and flashing the potential that many felt he had when Chicago drafted him out of Kentucky this past summer. He made some poor decisions late in the game, however, displaying some sloppy ball-handling. He also had some trouble defending George Hill.
That being said, with the pine so limited in terms of available bodies, you have to give it up to the Bulls reserves. They may not have filled up the stat sheet, but they did all they could.