Pro basketball

Bulls are making their point with defense

2014-03-24T21:00:00Z 2014-03-25T19:36:07Z Bulls are making their point with defenseAl Hamnik al.hamnik@nwi.com, (219) 933-4154 nwitimes.com
March 24, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Neither the Bulls nor the Pacers are short-circuiting scoreboards around the NBA this season.

If you attended Monday night's game at the United Center hoping the home team would break 100 points so you'd get a free Big Mac, odds were against you.

The Bulls were averaging 93.2 points, 30th in the NBA. Indiana was at 98.1, good for 22nd.

On the flip side, you had the top two defensive teams.

Indiana is No. 1 in opponents' scoring (91.9) and field-goal percentage (.417) while the Bulls are next at 92.1 ppg. and .430.

"You have to look at what the strengths and weaknesses of your club are. How do you play to your strengths and cover up your weaknesses?" Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The most important thing is to find a way to win."

And the Bulls did, limiting the sluggish Pacers to 37 percent shooting in a big 89-77 win to even their season series at 2-2.

"Our team has been hit hard all year and responded to the challenge," Thibodeau said. "We still think there's areas we can improve upon. But all year, we've found ways to win and that's most important."

The win moved Chicago (40-31) into third place in the Eastern Conference playoff standings while Indiana (51-20) has lost seven of its last 12 and is a mediocre 19-16 on the road.

Taj Gibson again led the Bulls with 23 points off the bench. Kirk Hinrich added 18 as five players hit double figures. Carlos Boozer had 10 rebounds.

"Taj was a monster," Thibodeau said.

The win avenged last Friday's 12-point loss in Indianapolis which saw Gibson foul out with only seven points.

"I was ticked off and frustrated as hell with my play," he said. "Tibs is going to get you motivated, so we worked the wrinkles out and executed tonight.

"I took my looks when they came to me. I didn't hesitate."

Paul George, still mired in a lengthy shooting slump, had 24 points for Indiana but missed 14 of 22 shots. George Hill added 17 points, 12 coming in the first quarter.

"They were talking trash the whole game," Gibson said. "I don't talk trash. I just play my game. We're not scared of anyone. People don't understand we like a dogfight.

"We welcome it."

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