Note-A-Bulls: Rondo benched but Bulls fail to climb out of early hole against Pacers

After two narrow wins preceded by three consecutive losses, the Bulls entered Friday afternoon at 16-16, a record that simply undermines the inconsistency and streakiness of this team so far. Facing the Pacers, a team they beat just four days ago, the Bulls once again showed some struggles from both the players and coach Fred Hoiberg.

While things would unfold unusually, the Bulls started off with their usual five (Rondo, Wade, Butler, Gibson, Lopez). In the 1st quarter, the Pacers came out prepared and jumped out to a 15-4 lead. The Pacers would extend that lead to 24-10 with less than 4 minutes remaining in the quarter. Despite their slow offensive start, the Bulls managed to respond with a 12-4 run to finish of the quarter down just 28-22.    

In the 2nd quarter, the Pacers continually fought off the Bulls to keep their lead near or at the double-digit marker. After pulling within four points of Indianapolis, the Bulls would eventually go back down by 12, and headed into the locker room losing 62-50. Call me a broken record but once again, the script seemed to flip at halftime, as the Bulls would no longer be outplayed by the Pacers coming out of the break.

As earlier mentioned, the starting lineup would not hold its form for the majority of the game. After an unproductive 1st half and early foul trouble, Michael-Carter Williams would get the call to run the offense for the 2nd half. Throughout the 3rd quarter, the Bulls managed to go shot for shot with the Pacers, outscoring them 23-22. While the lead was still a tough one to overcome with one quarter left, the Bulls did look much better defensively.   

Unfortunately, in the 4th quarter, the Bulls once again could only outscore the Pacers by a single point, however, the defense looked less impressive against a Pacers team that didn’t really need to thrive offensively. After being asked about his status as head coach of the Bulls before the game started, Hoiberg’s decision to sit Rondo in the 2nd half was one that will draw judgment, both good and bad, from Bulls supporters. Once again, shooting efficiency was an issue as the Bulls hovered around 40% from the field and just over 25% from 3-point range.

  • The good: Wade and Butler combined for 45 points, both shooting in the upper 40’s percentage-wise, from the field. McDermott and Felicio were both 4-5 from the field coming off the bench. Felicio continued being productive on the boards grabbing 12 rebounds (six being offensive) in just 22 minutes of action.
  • The bad: Gibson struggled from the field while Lopez only had two field goal attempts and Rondo had none. Mirotic also struggled mightily going 3-14 from the field, 11 of those attempts being 3 pointers.
  • With continued offensive struggles, something the Bulls hoped Hoiberg would excel at as an NBA coach, the Bulls need to quickly figure out how to get more efficient minutes out of both the starters and bench players. 
  • Up Next: the Bulls must quickly recover for a New Year’s Eve matchup against the .500 Milwaukee Bucks. The Bulls lost back to back games to Milwaukee earlier in the year, and look to get back to .500 at home.

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