Pacers 101, Bulls 77
Jeff Foster added 11 points, eight rebounds and a blocked shot, helping to make up for the loss of O’Neal.
The All-Star forward left in the second quarter with what Pacers coach Rick Carlisle called “a combination bruise and a sprain” to his left knee that is not being viewed as serious.
“Tonight’s a night we can feel good about,” Carlisle said. “But there’s a lot to be done, especially if we lose a potential MVP for a period of time. We’ll say a prayer tonight and hope Jermaine’s situation isn’t a serious one.”
O’Neal injured the knee trying to set a pick, colliding with Bulls guard Ronald Dupree just inside the baseline. He had to be helped off the court and into the locker room with 8:21 left in the first half and the Pacers leading 33-20.
“You lose your best low-post threat, your shot blocker and your MVP threat,” Miller said. “Other guys are going to have to step up. When Ron has gotten hurt or been suspended, we have responded. It’s the same with Jermaine.
“I don’t think we’ve lost a game when he hasn’t been in.”
O’Neal, who leads the Pacers with 20.6 points per game and 10.2 rebounds, will have an MRI on Tuesday. X-rays of the knee were negative. His availability for the Pacers game against Dallas on Wednesday is uncertain, “but it certainly looks doubtful,” Carlisle said.
Jamaal Tinsley finished with 11 points, eight assists and three steals as Indiana (51-19) snapped a two-game skid.
After blowing leads of 17 points in a loss to Sacramento on Friday and 13 in a loss to Memphis on Saturday, the Pacers kept building on an 29-18 first-quarter advantage. They led by as many as 26 in the third quarter.
Eddy Curry led the Bulls with 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting after averaging 26.5 points during a recent two-game winning streak. He was pulled from the game in the third quarter along with most of Chicago’s starters.
“I live my life ultimately knowing that the coach is the coach and he makes all the decisions,” Curry said. “Once we’re on the court, we do what we can to stay out there. But if he wants to look in a different direction, that’s fine with me.
“Whatever he calls, I’m going to just try my best to get ready.”
Reserves Jannero Pargo and Dupree were the only other Bulls to score in double digits. Pargo had 12 points, while Dupree added 10.
Chicago’s 15 blocked shots was a season-high.
“We have some young guys with talent who want to play the right way and know how to play the right way,” Bulls forward Antonio Davis said. “But it just comes to a point where you have to learn how to sustain a certain level of basketball every single night and we’re just not getting that level rightnow.”
Jamal Crawford’s career-high 33 points came against Indiana on April 9, 2003. He keeps the game ball on couch at his bedside. He finished with nine on Monday. … Davis was the most warmly received of his teammates during the opposing team introductions. Davis was a second-round draft pick for Indiana in 1990, spending two years in Greece and another in Italy before joining the team from 1993-2000. … Bulls G Kirk Hinrich, who has a rookie-best 12 double-doubles this season, finished with five points against Indiana—markingthe 10th time he has scored five or fewer points this season.