From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Paul George made no attempt to downplay the importance of his matchup with LeBron James."It's a chance to for me to see where I'm at, going against one of the best, if not, the best in the league," George said. "Another challenge to myself to go at LeBron. I definitely wanted to battle him."George rose to the occasion with 29 points and 11 rebounds, and the Pacers held Miami to a season-low point total in an 87-77 win over the Heat on Tuesday night.George has moved from shooting guard to small forward and has become a primary scoring option with Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer last season, out all season because of a left knee injury.Indiana's 22-year-old forward has earned James' respect for the way he has handled his new responsibilities."I see him playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of opportunities," James said. "The simple fact that Danny Granger is hurt has created this opportunity for him to show what he can do. He's doing everything. He was a good player last year, but we weren't able to see it because he wasn't a featured player."David West added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Lance Stephenson chipped in with 13 points for the Pacers (21-14), who have won 11 of their last 14 games.Dwyane Wade scored 30 points and James had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Miami (23-10), which still has the best record in the Eastern Conference. It was the first time the teams had met since Miami beat the Pacers in six games in the conference semifinals last year.The Pacers outrebounded the Heat 55-36 to help make up for 36 percent shooting."That was a big emphasis tonight," George said. "Miami is a team that, for as good as they are, they struggle with rebounding. We knew that coming in. We knew that we had to get the boards. And we're bigger. We're a big team."George had gone 8 for 29 in his previous two games, but he broke out of his slump by making 12 of 27 shots against Miami.Miami entered the game leading the NBA in field goal percentage, while Indiana led the league in field goal percentage defense. The matchup resulted in the Heat scoring only 35 points in the second half, their lowest-scoring half of the season."Offensively, we did not have a very fluid game on that side of the court," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I'll have to take care of that tomorrow."Indiana led 38-28 in the second quarter before the Heat rallied late in the half. Wade hit a 3-pointer to cut Indiana's lead to 38-37, and a putback by James gave the Heat the lead. The teams were tied at 42 at halftime. Wade scored 23 points in the first half, including 16 in the second quarter.The Heat found their offensive flow in the early minutes of the second half. A 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers gave the Heat a 51-44 lead and caused the Pacers to call a timeout, but Indiana rallied. Stephenson found West in the corner for a 3-pointer, then Stephenson made a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 55-53 lead.George made consecutive 3-pointers to make it 67-57 at the end of the quarter. The Pacers made 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the period. Miami scored just 15 points on 7-for-18 shooting in the third and Wade went scoreless.George opened the fourth with a jumper over James to expand Indiana's lead to 12, and Ian Mahinmi's putback bumped it to 14.Another 3 by George made it 77-60 with about 8 minutes to go, and the Pacers remained comfortably ahead the rest of the way.Wade scored just seven points on 1-for-4 shooting in the second half. George said Stephenson deserved credit for bothering Wade."He made it hard for him in the second half," George said. "Everybody was locked in to his drive and tried to contest all his shots."The Pacers were subdued in the locker room after the game, perhaps a sign that they have come to expect such victories."We can't overreact to this," West said. "We're just happy to get a win. That's a good basketball team."Notes: Vogel said Granger's recovery from his left knee injury is on schedule, meaning he should be ready to play in about a month. ... The Pacers led 20-19 at the end of the first quarter, despite shooting just 28 percent. ... Wade was fouled on a 3-pointer in the second quarter and made all three free throws. ... West's 3-pointer was just his third of the season and the 39th of his 10-year career. ... Indiana won its eighth straight at home.
On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, Dave Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 115-101 loss to the Bucks.
0:45 Reaction to breakout game from Daniel Gafford
3:30 On Gafford getting limited minutes and not playing in the 4th quarter
7:00 Viewer comment on sitting Markkanen
8:55 Viewer comment on on Zach and Lauri
10:15 On the rotations and bench play
12:45 Viewer comment on Coby White long-term potential
14:30 Dave needs to do a show with no hat?
16:15 Viewer comment on Zach LaVine
18:00 Viewer trade idea with Warriors
19:45 Viewer comment brings back Rose memories
20:05 Change the starting lineup?
22:05 Viewer makes Sabine happy by referencing Doncic
23:10 Matt Peck breaks his mic
25:00 On the Bucks having fun before the Bulls game
Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:
Coby White’s second straight 3-pointer splashed through the net — a three that, combined with a Ryan Arcidiacono long-ball, capped a 9-0 run to give the Bulls a one-point lead over the Bucks with 6 minutes, 23 seconds to play.
For the second time in five days, the Bulls had an opportunity to knock off the Bucks, an Eastern Conference champion contender.
Then, reality hit. Or the starters returned. At this point, that’s one and the same.
Here’s all you need to know about where the Bulls’ rebuild stands as 'Year Three' fell to a 4-10 start following the Bucks’ 115-101 victory: Coach Jim Boylen admitted he considered riding a bench unit down the stretch over one that featured Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen.
“They have a guy that they can go to that can get them a bucket, which is what good teams have,” Boylen said, referring to the Bucks and Giannis Antetokounmpo. “I’ve been on those teams. We’re figuring out who that guy is and we’re learning to play that way. We’re not there yet.”
Boylen then supported his beleaguered core players, because that’s what he’s paid to do. But the sobering reality of the Bulls’ current fortunes didn’t just play out in LaVine’s stat line of 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting, or Markkanen’s 9 points on 2-for-12.
It played out when Boylen indeed returned to LaVine and Markkanen with 5:04 remaining, and the Bucks leading 103-99. From that point, the Bulls didn’t score another field goal.
Markkanen sank two free throws but missed a driving layup and 13-foot jumper. LaVine committed a turnover, missed a layup and a 3-pointer.
Game, set and match.
“They got the MVP over there. He did his thing. And we didn’t,” LaVine said. “It’s going to be tough when your leading players, me and Lauri, don’t perform at our level. You can understand that. You’re missing a lot of points and a lot of plays. We understand we have to pick it up.”
What’s that they say? Recognition is the first step towards recovery. The Bulls have to hope so, especially after Markkanen admitted his slump is affecting him mentally.
“It’s frustrating knowing I’ve never had this kind of stretch of not even not hitting 3s but missing layups and dunks,” he said. “I have to keep my head up knowing that you work too hard for this not to turn around. Keep working and I know it’s going to turn around.
“I noticed myself kind of thinking too much at the half. I tried to switch it up and make the plays for the team. That’s how you get out of your own head. I have to stay aggressive. Create contact and then finish every shot. Not getting out of it too early or anything like that. I’ve done my film study. Put the work in and I know it’s going to turn around.”
At one point, Markkanen actually missed two dunk attempts on the same possession. Following the second, he rolled his eyes toward the United Center roof as if to say, 'What’s next?'
Markkanen is shooting 36.2 percent overall and 26.8 percent from 3-point range. He missed all four three-pointers he attempted versus the Bucks.
“Just try to get an easy bucket and lay it in. But having two 7-footers there, I know it’s going to be blocked so I tried to go up quick and end up missing it,” Markkanen said of the dunk sequence. “It was frustrating. I know I can play better. It’s not going to be like this forever. I don’t know what else to say.”
Antetokounmpo made 13 field goals, equaling the total of five Bulls starters. How do you say 'ouch' in Greek?
“What I’m going to do is I’m going to support those two guys. I’m going to coach them like I always have. I’m going to show it to them on film and we’re going to work on it in practice. We’re going to get them to understand that we believe in them, we value them and that we need to do better,” Boylen said. “It’s all part of this process. We’re slugging uphill right now. We gotta keep slugging. That’s all I can say.”
Boylen said he returned to LaVine and Markkanen because he still believes in them. He has to say that and he has to believe that. The rebuild is structured for them to shine.
It’s not currently happening.
“I’m still developing two young guys,” Boylen said. “Zach missed a year-and-a-half. Lauri was hurt last year. He has basically played two years. I’m going to keep developing them to come in and learn how to win games. I believe in both of them. I believe they’re important to what we’re doing.”
Raising LaVine’s absence to an ACL injury and subsequent rehab is a curious approach from Boylen given that LaVine has been fully healthy and rehabbed for quite some time. But again, he has been placed in a position where he has to protect their play and lack of production in big moments.
The Bulls are a long way away from respectability at this point.
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