Pacers 100, Bulls 90

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Given their rash of injuries early in the season, the Indiana Pacers’ 3-0 start may come as a surprise to some.

Not to Fred Jones.

“We have 15 guys who can play basketball,” Jones said. “We know how to play.”

With five players sitting out and both All-Stars on the bench with foul trouble, a group of role players went on a big run to extend Indiana’s lead in the Pacers’ 100-90 win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.

Jones hit three 3-pointers during the 19-6 spurt in the third quarter, and Stephen Jackson led the way with 24 points and four steals to help the banged-up Pacers open the season with three straight wins for the first time since 1995-96.

“I don’t think we’re supposed to lose to nobody, as deep as we are,” Jackson said.

Indiana was up 62-57 with just over six minutes to play when Ron Artest and Jermaine O’Neal both picked up their fourth fouls.

That’s when a Pacers group including Jackson, Jones, Jamaal Tinsley, Austin Croshere and David Harrison extended Indiana’s lead.

Croshere got a dunk, then Tinsley stole the inbounds pass and found Jones for a wide open 3-pointer that gave Indiana a 71-61 lead.

Tinsley then made a driving layup, and Jones added two more 3-pointers to give Indiana a 17-point advantage.

After Jones, who finished with 14 points, hit his third 3-pointer in the final three minutes of the third quarter, Bulls coach Scott Skiles crouched on the sidelines, rubbing his forehead in frustration.

“Usually it’s only a matter of time before they pull away,” Skiles said. “They pulled away. We fought back, we just didn’t have enough for them.”

It’s been a rough start for the Bulls, who were coming off a double-overtime loss to New Jersey on Friday.

Chicago committed 24 turnovers and made just 14 of 42 shots (33 percent) in the second half.

Luol Deng again was impressive for Chicago. The rookie from Duke had 25 points on 10-of-15 shooting and five rebounds to lead the Bulls.

“It’s a simple game for Luol,” Skiles said. “He’s one of those guys that shoots when he’s open and passes when he’s covered. I know that sounds ridiculously simple, but there are a lot of guys in the league that don’t know that.”

Pacers rookie Harrison made his first career start for center Scot Pollard, who missed the game with a sore back. It was the latest in a long line of injuries for the Pacers.

Pollard had been starting for Jeff Foster, who is on the injured list after having surgery on his right hip. Jonathan Bender (knee), Reggie Miller (hand) and Anthony Johnson (hand) also were out.

That didn’t make a difference on Saturday. The Pacers just leaned on Jackson, who was 8-for-13 from the floor, and Jones, who was 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

“It is tough when their main guys are getting breathers and those guys come in and hold up the fort,” said Ben Gordon, who scored 17 points.

O’Neal, who finished third in the MVP voting last season, was used as a reserve for the second straight game while he works to get his sore left foot healthy. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think it’s definitely attributed to the strength of our bench,” Croshere said of the team’s fast start. “This is becoming a trademark for this team.”

Just like in their season-opener against New Jersey, Chicago didn’t quit.

The Bulls opened the fourth with an 8-3 run to pull to 85-75, but they didn’t have enough left after erasing a 27-point deficit against the Nets to force overtime a night earlier.

“Overall, I thought we played really hard, especially after last night,” Skiles said. “We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things out there.”

Kirk Hinrich was not one of them.

After scoring a career-high 34 points against the Nets, Bulls guard Hinrich managed just 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting, with seven assists and eight turnovers before fouling out with over nine minutes to play.

Tinsley had nine points and 12 assists for the Pacers.

Notes

Bulls forward Andres Nocioni left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised back and is listed as day-to-day. … The Pacers unveiled their 2003-04 Central Division championship banner. … The Bulls have lost 13 straight at Indiana. … Bulls forwards Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis served the second of their two-game suspensions for their roles in a preseason fight. They’ll make their season debuts on Tuesday against Phoenix.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Chicago
L. Deng L. Deng
10-15,  25 Pts
5 Rebs, 1 Assists
 Indiana
J. Tinsley J. Tinsley
3-6,  9 Pts
5 Rebs, 12 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists