Bulls drop to 12th in East despite shooting 60% in loss to Pacers

6 observations: The Pacers dropped the Bulls to 12th in the East originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Indiana Pacers dealt a potentially devastating blow Chicago Bulls‘ play-in chances Sunday afternoon at the United Center, prevailing 125-122 when Tyrese Haliburton sank a 30-foot 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left, and Nikola Vucevic missed the tying shot at the buzzer.

The loss lost 42 points Zach LaVinewho was smothered by the Pacers on the last inbounds play with a bunch of bodies.

Although the teams now have identical 29-36 records, the Pacers have advanced in the play-in race thanks to a 3-1 season series victory. The Bulls are currently 12th.

Here are six observations:

1. The Bulls continue to struggle in clutch games, which are defined within five points or less with 5 minutes or less to play.

After going 25-16 last season, which tied for the third-most such wins in the league, the Bulls are now 11-22 in club games this season. That is tied for the third fewest such wins with Detroit Pistonsin front of only feeders from the bottom in Houston Rockets and san antonio spurs.

“We haven’t closed out games well this year,” coach Billy Donovan said. “It’s not one thing. They were different things.”

2. On Sunday, Patrick Beverley he pointed to offensive rebounding and transition opportunities, two areas the guard said the Bulls have addressed in practice.

That might make the Pacers’ 13 offensive rebounds and 20-8 advantage in second-chance points and 24 points off the Bulls’ 15 turnovers even worse. Those are bigger reasons why the Bulls lost than Haliburton’s heroics.

3. It’s not often that a team shoots 60.8 percent and loses. That’s what happened to the Bulls, thanks to the aforementioned second-chance points and turnover points, but also a math problem that has plagued them all season.

That led to the Pacers making 94 field goals, 20 more than the Bulls. Even worse, the Pacers made 44 3-pointers, double the 22 attempted by the Bulls.

The Bulls actually shot a good percentage from 3-point range, knocking down 10, including five from LaVine. But they still finished minus-18 from behind the arc, a trend that’s been happening all season for the team with the fewest three-point shots in the league, both in terms of attempts and goals.

“Obviously, we don’t have a team that takes a lot of threes. We have some guys on the team that take multiple threes per game,” LaVine said. “But if a team is shooting 2 or 3 times as many threes as you, it’s tough unless you shoot a lot of twos.”

4. Haliburton’s 3-pointer after tough Beverley defense pushed the Bulls into needing the tying shot.

“He shot the ball and it went in,” Beverley said. “Good shot.”

Donovan said LaVine was the primary option on the ensuing inbounds play, which LaVine said the Bulls switched during back-to-back timeouts.

“Try to get me to the top to get a 3,” LaVine said. “It was just a lot of mess up there.”

DeMar DeRozan, which curled off the screen, was a secondary option. The same was done by Vučević, who released the ball as a safety valve and turned and lifted his attempt to equalize at the siren. Donovan called it a decent look, all things considered.

5. At 34.8 percent, the Bulls now have the sixth-best odds in the NBA for a top-four pick in June’s NBA draft. This is what they need to keep their selection or they will transfer it to Orlando Magicwho sits just behind the Bulls in the standings.

The organization’s publicly stated goal is to make the playoffs, so don’t expect the Bulls to turn around and try to maximize their chances in the draft lottery. But the Bulls’ current 8.3 percent odds of landing the No. 1 pick in the draft lottery, according to Tankathon.com, are higher than their current 5 percent playoff odds, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

“As long as you have time, you have a chance,” DeRozan said.

To that end, DeRozan sat down and talked with young Bulls center Patrick Williams, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu when the reporters entered the dressing room. DeRozan said the meeting focused on keeping “everyone on the same page” and pointing out nuances in the game that can affect a win.

Beverley said the Bulls’ mood remains “colorful, always swaggering.”

6. LaVine continued his hot play, knocking down 13 of 23 shots and 11 of 13 free throws in addition to his five 3-pointers. His 42 points marked his fifth 40-point game and was one short of his season-high for points.

It was also just the second time this season that LaVine has attempted 20 or more field goals in three straight games.

“I told you that when I got better, I would go back to the way I was supposed to be. It takes time to get back to full strength,” LaVine said. “I feel I played well. We just have to win games.”

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