Here are six takeaways from the win.
1. Nikola Vučević led the offense.
The Bulls targeted Vučević from the jump, utilizing pick-and-rolls with DeRozan and Coby White to create better looks for the center in the paint.
The Pacers chose to play center Myles Turner in drop coverage, which could have tempted Vučević to settle for outside shots. Instead he continued to drive directly into the teeth of the defense, racking up 24 points despite a slow shooting start.
Vučević voiced frustration after the season opener that the Bulls weren’t finding him enough — a consistent complaint since they acquired him from the Orlando Magic at the 2021 trade deadline. But he felt properly involved in the offense Monday, tallying three assists and 17 rebounds in addition to his scoring.
With 1:55 left and a 3-point lead, Vučević found himself open in the corner. He waved his arms frantically to call for a skip pass from DeRozan, then drove into the paint for a layup and drew a foul. The three-point play gave the Bulls the cushion they needed.
2. A 4th-quarter turnaround.
For the first three quarters, the momentum never changed. The Pacers never led by more than eight. The Bulls couldn’t get past tying the score. But that momentum shifted in the fourth quarter.
The Bulls tied the score with a pair of DeRozan free throws with 4:48 remaining, then pulled ahead when Alex Caruso broke out in transition to throw down a dunk. From there, it was if a dam broke in the paint: The Bulls made four consecutive layups en route to a 17-8 run to close the game.
3. Another clutch win despite an excruciating final minute.
The final minute drew out into another convoluted, razor-thin finish plagued with irregularities.
LaVine was called for a technical foul after he attempted to rip the ball out of Andrew Nembhard’s arms during a timeout. Caruso threw away a pass and Buddy Hield capitalized with a fast-break 3-pointer. DeRozan was called for a foul on Hield’s 3-point attempt with 12.4 seconds remaining, only for Bulls coach Billy Donovan to successfully challenge the call.
But despite breaking down in certain areas, the Bulls did not fully crumble in their second clutch game of the season — both of them wins.
4. Defense slowed the high-flying Pacers.
The Pacers entered with one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league with a 128.2 offensive rating through two games. But the Bulls slowed that pace considerably, holding the Pacers to 105 points.
Indiana’s stars still showed out: Turner scored 20 points, and Tyrese Haliburton added 19. But the Bulls were able to stifle the Pacers offense in the margins by slowing the pace and keeping them from running the court.
5. 3-point attempts were down, accuracy was up.
After averaging 36.3 attempts behind the arc in their first three games, the Bulls reverted to the norm. They finished 6-for-17 (35%) from 3-point range, while the Pacers were 12-for-46 (26.1%). The 17 attempts is less than half the league average of 35.3.
As a result, 3-pointers were only 18% of the Bulls’ total shot selection, compared with their season average of 31.1%.
But it was an improvement in accuracy for the Bulls, who were shooting 28.4% from 3-point range before Monday. And Donovan noted that the Bulls were more prolific at the rim — rather than settling for midrange jumpers — which was a preferable reason to take fewer 3-pointers.
However, it also showcased the difficulty of matching offensive pace with a low volume of 3-pointers. Even though the Pacers shot below 30% from 3-point range, they outscored the Bulls 36-18 behind the arc.
6. Jevon Carter logged his 1st double-digit performance.
Carter tallied 11 points in his best performance as a Bull. He came off the bench late in the first quarter and made an immediate impact, carving his way into the paint and hitting a needed 3-pointer. He finished with two assists, a blocked shot and a steal.
Donovan stuck with Carter at point guard for the bulk of the fourth quarter after White suffered a nasty collision with Aaron Nesmith. White briefly went to the locker room with a trainer but quickly returned to the bench, closing the game alongside Caruso.