INDIANAPOLIS — The Bulls followed Derrick Rose’s lead Friday night.
“I played like [crap] tonight,” Rose said after a lackluster team effort from the start doomed the Bulls to a 104-92 loss to the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the final game of the circus trip.
Rose, who scored 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting and helped set a bad tone with three first-quarter turnovers, wasn’t alone. The Bulls were lethargic almost to a man as they fell behind by 12 points in the first quarter and 18 in the second quarter.
Rose missed 10 of his first 11 shots. Jimmy Butler (16 points) missed six of his first seven shots. Pau Gasol scored nine points on 4-of-16 shooting. The Bulls shot 34.8 percent from the field (32-of-92), committed 15 turnovers. The Pacers scored 21 fast-break points and 16 second-chance points.
“I don’t know what [was wrong],” Rose said. “Thanksgiving, I don’t know. I can’t put a finger on it. It think it was all about energy. We came out sluggish. I came out sluggish — had three turnovers in the first quarter; missed a buinch of shots, like bunnies, floaters; shots I normally hit with my left hand I missed.
“I’m one of the leaders of this team, so I have to change that next game. Give me a day or two to work out. I work out [Saturday]. We’ve got practice Sunday and we play Monday [against the Spurs at the United Center].”
The players made no excuses for their lethargic effort. “They outplayed us at both ends of the floor — point-blank. Period,” Butler said. “There ain’t too much to blame it on. We knew what we had to do to win this game. They played better than we did.”
The slow start was in marked contrast to their strong starts in their four previous games — three of them victories. The Bulls established 10-point first-quarter leads against the Pacers at home and the Suns, Warriors and Trailblazers on the road. But after taking a 7-2 lead in the first 2:34 of the game, the Bulls were outscored 17-2 to fall behind 19-9. They railed 30-18 after one quarter and 41-24 in the second quarter.
They used 7-of-9 free throws and fadeaway by Nikola Mirotich (25 points on 8-of-14 shooting) to close the deficit to 66-62 in the third quarter. But they never got closer.
“We fought back — that was one positive,” coach Fred Hoiberg said. “But out of the gate — I know coming back from the West Coast, this game is always a difficult one to play. But you can’t make excuses. You have to come out of the gate better than we did tonight.”
Red-hot Paul George led the Pacers with 33 points on 11-of-24 shooting, but four teammates scored in double figures, led by forward C.J. Miles (26) and center Ian Mahinmi (15).
“We started the game slow,” Gasol said. “They were getting to loose balls. They were getting to the offensive glass. They were making shots. Transition. Easy points early on. It’s not the right way to start when you’re on the road against a team that’s playing at a high level right now.
“We fought back, cut it to four. But they made plays. Overall, just not a very sharp offensive night.”