Pacers 91, Bulls 79

Jeff Washburn, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


INDIANAPOLIS -- The Central Division leading Indiana Pacers appear to have no plans to yield the Eastern Conference No. 1 seed to the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
Fueled by a 17-0 third-quarter run Friday night, the Pacers improved to 51-18 with a 91-79 victory against the division rival Chicago Bulls in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers, now an NBA best 32-4 at home this season, clung to a 46-45 lead early in the third quarter when they strung together a 17-0 run that created a 63-45 advantage at the 7:16 mark.
After making only 17 of 42 field-goal attempts during the first half (40.5 percent), Indiana sank 12 of 19 (63.2 percent) during the pivotal third quarter when it outscored Chicago 31-19. Guard Lance Stephenson made six of eight third-quarter shots and had 13 points in the period after producing just one basket before halftime. He finished with 15 while reserve forward Luis Scola had 19.
Pacers forward Paul George had a triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Chicago got 17 each from guards Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustine.
The Pacers 17-0 blitz included a flagrant foul against Bulls forward Carlos Boozer, who shoved Indiana center Roy Hibbert out of his way under the Chicago basket. Officials went to the monitor before confirming the flagrant one.
Indiana out-rebounded Chicago 10-5 in third quarter and turned the ball over only twice in the period after being guilty of 10 in a sloppy first half, after which the Pacers were fortunate to lead 44-43.
The Pacers were able to avoid losing more ground to Miami in the East after playing poorly Wednesday night in a 92-86 loss to the New York Knicks, snapping a four-game Indiana winning streak.
NOTES: Pacers C Andrew Bynum has continued soreness and swelling in his right knee, and according to team officials, will be out indefinitely. Bynum will continue to undergo treatment ... Entering this game, the Central Division-leading Pacers were 10-1 in contests played on Friday... Indiana's interior defense is the league's best, allowing only 35.5 points in the paint per game ... Since Jan. 1, Chicago has won an Eastern Conference-best 26 games ... The Bulls have not lost consecutive games since falling Feb. 1 at New Orleans and Feb. 3 at Sacramento. ... Indiana plays Saturday night at Memphis, while Chicago plays Philadelphia on Saturday in the United Center.