INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Solomon Hill scored 16 points and Ian Mahinmi had a season-high 14 points to help the Indiana Pacers hold off the Chicago Bulls 98-84 on Friday night.
The Pacers (27-34) have won a season-high four straight to get back into playoff contention.
Short-handed Chicago (39-24) was led by Pau Gasol with 18 points. Rookie Doug McDermott had a season-high 16 as the Bulls’ two-game winning streak ended. Chicago started the night one-half game ahead of Cleveland in the Central Division.
But even with little rest on the second game of a back-to-back, the Bulls fought hard.
After rallying from an 11-point third-quarter deficit to tie it at 66, Chicago opened the fourth quarter with two free throws to take a brief 68-66 lead.
The Pacers answered with seven straight points, spurring a 15-6 run that gave them an 83-74 lead with 5:29 left. Chicago couldn’t get closer than seven again.
Indiana is on its longest winning streak since last March, and the timing couldn’t be better.
The Pacers have pulled within a half-game of Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the East and could soon get two-time All-Star Paul George back from his broken right leg. George has said he’d like to start playing in mid-March, though the team has not established an official timetable.
Even without George, Indiana has figured out how to counterpunch against some of the league’s best teams. They did it again Friday.
Chicago trimmed an early 12-point deficit to 45-42 at the half.
And after Indiana opened the second half with eight straight points, the Bulls used a 12-2 spurt to get within one at 55-54. Chicago finished the quarter on a 12-5 run, getting a buzzer-beating tip-in from McDermott to tie the score.
Chicago retook the lead with two free throws to start the fourth before the Pacers charged back to take a 77-72 lead with 7:05 left and then finally put it away.
Bulls: How good have the Bulls become at finding replacements? Coach Frank Vogel called them the best next-man-up team in sports. That’s something coach Tom Thibodeau says is inherent in the team’s culture because they’ve had so much experience with it. Three players — Jimmy Butler, Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson — sat out Friday. Rose and Butler didn’t even make the trip.
Pacers: While Indiana is certainly playing well lately, it has gotten some big breaks. During a stretch in which they’ve won 10 of 12, the Pacers have beaten Golden State without Steph Curry, Cleveland without LeBron James or Kyrie Irving, the Knicks without Carmelo Anthony and now Chicago without Rose or Butler.
Bulls: travel to San Antonio on Sunday.
Pacers: visit the New York Knicks on Saturday.
This article was written by Michael Marot from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.