CHICAGO – Taj Gibson led five players in double figures with 23 points and the Chicago Bulls brushed off a poor offensive first half to rally for an 89-77 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Kirk Hinrich had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, Mike Dunleavy scored 13, Jimmy Butler 12 and Joakim Noah added 10 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Gibson, who was 9 for 15 from the field, also had eight rebounds in 32 minutes off the bench.
The Bulls (40-31) pulled within two percentage points of Toronto (39-30) for third place in the Eastern Conference.
The win also prevented Indiana from clinching the Central Division title on Chicago’s home court. The Pacers are looking to win consecutive division crowns for the second time since joining the NBA (1998-99 and 1999-2000).
The Pacers, who were led by Paul George’s 21 points, have dropped three straight and six of eight on the road. They’ve lost four of five at the United Center, including both visits this season.
The Pacers earned a 91-79 victory over the Bulls on Friday night at Indiana.
With the NBA’s top two defensive teams on the court, points figured to come at a premium, and that certainly was the case in the first half.
Neither team managed to score 20 in either of the first two quarters, and the Pacers took a 34-33 halftime lead when George Hill (12 first-half points) hit a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left.
The Bulls were 14 of 44 (31.8 percent) from the field in the first half, including 1 for 10 on 3-pointers.
Perhaps the most entertaining portion of the half came when the crowd got on Pacers center Roy Hibbert for an apparent flop, a hot topic between the teams in recent days.
On the play, Hibbert was fouled by Noah as he was beginning to go up for a shot attempt. It appeared contact was light, but Hibbert dropped to the court flailing as if he had been hit by a flagrant foul. After the replay was shown on the scoreboard, the crowd began to boo. Noah stood off to the side with a big grin on his face.
After Friday’s game in Indiana, Gibson accused the Pacers of flopping, and it was still the topic of conversation at the morning shootaround for both teams.
I mean, I haven’t taken a charge in probably four years, Hibbert said at the shootaround. He’s entitled to his opinion. I’m just going to go out there and play hard.