INDIANAPOLIS — Pick an excuse: lack of depth, bad calls, missed shots, poor rebounding, flopping. The list went on and on for the Bulls on Friday night.
The Bulls are still a feel-good story, but not every story has a happy ending. Certainly not in Indiana.
Thanks to a 19-0 run in the third quarter, the Pacers pulled away from the Bulls in a 91-79 laugher.
And, as coach Tom Thibodeau pointed out, losing the rebounding battle 51-36 is never a good thing. And reserve big man Taj Gibson fouling out because the Pacers have “floppers’’ doesn’t help. But depth seemed to be the difference. It was a big reason why Indiana (51-18) outscored the Bulls 31-19 in the third quarter to put the game on ice.
“You can use that as an excuse if you want,’’ Thibodeau said when asked about the Bulls’ lack of depth being exposed. “I choose not to. Usually our bench plays pretty well. Usually we get great contributions from D.J. [Augustin] and Taj, but we’re capable of playing better, and we’re going to have to. You have to have a tough mind-set. You know you’re not going to get calls [on the road]; we have to get past that.’’
Even though the Pacers were hit with three technical fouls, Gibson saw it the other way.
“There were some chippy calls,’’ Gibson said. “It was a physical game, but there were a lot of chippy calls.’’
Asked if the foul trouble inhibited his aggressiveness, Gibson said the Pacers deserved some Oscars.
“Yeah, cause there’s a lot of floppers . . . there was a lot of flopping,’’ Gibson said. “Once that happens, it kind of makes you think. The way they were calling the game, there were a lot of ticky-tack fouls, and you just got to be aggressive.’’
Gibson was asked to name names but refrained.
“I don’t know,’’ Gibson said. ‘‘You don’t know what’s what. You don’t know what’s flopping and then there’s kind of tough calls. You got to play through all the tough calls.’’
The Bulls (38-31) might want to figure that out quickly, especially against the Pacers. The way it sets up now, the Bulls would get Indiana in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Center Joakim Noah only seemed to be concerned about the rematch Monday at the United Center.
“They’re a very good team, and I’m excited to play them again in a couple of days,’’ Noah said. “And I’m excited to play them again for a long time.’’
Pacers All-Star forward Paul George had a triple-double (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), and forward Carlos Boozer was called for a flagrant foul (type 1) for a flying elbow in the direction of Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
Maybe he was the “flopper’’ Gibson was talking about.
“They outplayed us,’’ Noah said. “We’ll be back.’’