The Chicago Bulls turned it on and flipped an eight-point, second-half deficit into a seven-point victory, beating the Indiana Pacers 112-105 on October 30. Their effort was spearheaded by Nikola Vucevic’s 24 points, 17 rebounds, and three assists.
He shot just one three-pointer (which he missed) but had one steal and just one turnover on the night.
Vucevic was also 6-for-8 in the restricted area, 5-of-5 after halftime.
“We were trying to exploit a matchup, and we really went at it and it worked,” Vucevic said via Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “We always talk about we gotta get to the paint. When we do get to the paint compared to when we don’t, the numbers are a pretty drastic difference. And it’s not necessarily just shooting in the paint. Just getting to the paint, and making plays out of it.”
As a team, the Bulls shot 20-for-31 in the restricted area for the game. But they were 8-for-8 in the fourth quarter. Vucevic paced the team with 11 points in the final period with DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine scoring eight points apiece.
The Bulls outscored the Pacers 34-22 in the fourth quarter thanks to their approach.
“We executed pretty well in the halfcourt, making good reads. We were patient with it,” Vucevic said. “It’s important that we do that. It’s something that we struggled with last year. So, hopefully, we continue to get better at it. We have to be able to do that. We have too many offensive players to not be efficient at the end like that.”
The win brings the Bulls to 2-2, perhaps belying the sentiments around the team amid a pair of poor showings and one narrow victory entering the contest.
Bulls Defense Shows Up vs. Pacers
But the Bulls – who boasted the fifth-best defensive rating last season, per NBA.com – held a Pacers offense that had scored 143 points and 125 points over its first two games, respectively, to just 105 points on the night.
That kind of effort is certainly something to hang their hat on.
“We definitely haven’t played our best basketball, and to be at .500 is much better than if we were like 1-3 or 0-4,” Vučević said, per Sam Smith of NBA.com. “Better to learn from winning than losses. It’s kind of positive we’re at .500 and haven’t played that well. So we know there is a lot of room for improvement. Are we going to improve and are we going get there?”
The Bulls’ next chance to show consistency in their approach comes on the road versus Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on November 1.
DeMar DeRozan: Nikola Vucevic ‘Cussed Us Out’
Vucevic has been very vocal, perhaps even increasingly of late, about the team needing to play inside-out which would invariably mean playing through him. He’s also spoken about the sacrifices that he has made since the Bulls acquired him from the Orlando Magic in 2021.
So it’s no surprise to hear that it was Vucevic whose vocal leadership played a significant role in the Bulls’ plan of attack.
“Big fella came and was dominant on the boards and did his thing tonight,” DeRozan said, per Smith. “He cussed us out (last week) in his language and it paid off. We didn’t know what he said but we said, ‘All right. We’ve just got to be aware and take advantage of our key players.’ We’ve all got to step up in big moments, and Vooch did that tonight.”