For a change, Bulls enjoy size advantage in victory against Pacers

Nikola Vucevic took advantage of the undersized Pacers, scoring a season-high 36 points on 21 shots.

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Bulls center Nikola Vucevic found himself in a rare situation Friday.

The undermanned — and extremely undersized — Pacers had little choice but to throw guards and wings at him, all but daring him to take advantage of the matchups with some old-fashioned bully ball.

Vucevic did just that, scoring a season-high 36 points on 16-for-21 shooting and grabbing 17 rebounds to help carry the Bulls to a 122-115 victory in Indianapolis. The Bulls outrebounded the Pacers 43-37 and outscored them in the paint 70-54.

In most games this season, however, it has been the Bulls and their small lineup looking to cause enough chaos to cover up the deficiencies they have had in terms of rebounding and physicality. And unless the Bulls get aggressive by the trade deadline Thursday, that won’t be changing.

Guards Alex Caruso (wrist surgery) and Lonzo Ball (knee surgery) are expected back in March, and guards Zach LaVine (back) and Coby White (groin) got the game against the Pacers off to try to heal up. But unless one of them has an unforeseen growth spurt, losses such as the one Thursday to the Raptors should be more concerning than victories such as the one Friday should be celebrated.

Coach Billy Donovan reiterated that size will remain a concern for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

‘‘Every team has different concerns and things they have to deal with,’’ Donovan said. ‘‘Like, there’s no perfect team. But I do think that when we’ve had a real focus on that — with Alex, with Lonzo, with DeMar [DeRozan], with Zach, with even Ayo [Dosunmu], some of the different guys — we’ve been able to hold our own and do a decent job where we really haven’t gotten dominated.

‘‘[Against the Raptors], we got really dominated there. But I think if you look at our defensive rebounding, it hasn’t been necessarily the worst in the league. And I think when we’ve been whole . . . we’ve been able to hold our own.’’

Donovan has been stressing rotational block-outs all season, especially with how often the Bulls are forced to run two players at post-up big men. That’s why, with the trade deadline looming, all eyes are looking to the Bulls’ front office to make life easier.

‘‘It’s valid; it’s something we’re going to have to overcome in certain situations,’’ Donovan said of the Bulls’ lack of size.

That’s why the Pacers were such a nice break from that.

‘‘It was different,’’ Vucevic said. ‘‘When you just look at it, ‘Oh, he’s got a huge height advantage.’ Yeah, but sometimes it’s hard because they crowd you and work around you. . . . [On Friday], I was able to take advantage.’’

The Bulls had some head-shaking defensive breakdowns, but it wasn’t for their lack of size. Their bench played poorly, they gave the Pacers too many clean looks from three-point range and they allowed Caris LeVert to score 42 points.

But the Bulls’ offense, led by Vucevic and DeRozan (31 points), pretty much had its way against the Pacers.

Then there was rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu. His career-high 14 assists were great, but his dunk to short-circuit a late-game Pacers run was spectacular.

Donovan called a play that allowed Dosunmu to get downhill. He faked a pass to DeRozan, then turned the corner and attacked, dunking on two Pacers with 16.3 seconds left to put the Bulls ahead by five.

‘‘My confidence is always high,’’ Dosunmu said. ‘‘I put a lot of work into my game.’’

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