INDIANAPOLIS – On Monday night, the Indiana Pacers (14-11) refused to play down to their opposition and crushed an injury-plagued New York Knicks squad. Wednesday night was a different story, however, as Indy needed an epic fourth quarter comeback to top the NBA’s worst team.
Indiana trailed the Chicago Bulls (3-20) by as many as 15 points in the final period, but Victor Oladipo saved the day, draining a go-ahead three-pointer with 30.1 seconds remaining to put the Blue and Gold ahead for good. The Pacers escaped with a 98-96 victory, despite leading for just those last 30.1 seconds of Wednesday’s contest.
For roughly three and a half quarters, it appeared Indiana was well on their way to their worst loss of the season.
The Bulls set the tone early, taking a 13-4 lead and shooting 52.4% from the field in Wednesday’s first quarter. Chicago kept the Pacers at arm’s length in the second quarter thanks in part to a 13-2 run that gave them a game-high 17-point edge. Indiana scored just 19 second quarter points, allowing the Bulls to go into the half up 55-39. It was only the fourth time this year that Chicago held a halftime lead.
Things continued to go the visitors’ way in the third, as the Bulls fought off Indy’s attempts at a rally. Darren Collison scored ten for the Pacers in the third quarter, but Chicago used a 8-2 run to close the period to go into the fourth with a 83-69 cushion.
The Pacers seemingly could not get over the hump on Wednesday, but they finally broke through about halfway through the fourth quarter.
With 7:14 to play, Chicago still held a 13-point lead at 92-79. By the 2:43 mark, Indiana had trimmed that deficit down to two at 94-92. That 13-2 run put the pressure on the Bulls, who ultimately couldn’t handle it. Kris Dunn did respond with a bucket to make it 94-90, but Cory Joseph fired back to cut it back down to two.
Following a Bulls turnover with 34 seconds left, Oladipo picked up the ball and raced to the three-point line for the game’s biggest shot. That shot went in and as the fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse went crazy, the Pacers all of the sudden had their very first lead. Dunn misfired on the other end, putting Oladipo at the free throw line with 12 seconds on the board. The former IU star made one of two, giving Chicago a chance to win or tie, but Lauri Markkanen’s three-point shot glanced off of the backboard to end a wild ballgame.
All five Pacers starters scored in double-figures again, led by Oladipo’s 27 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Bojan Bogdanovic was next in line with 17 points, while Thaddeus Young fell one rebound shy of a double-double with ten points and nine boards.
Indiana’s season-long homestand continues on Friday with a big one from the Fieldhouse. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in town, as the Pacers look to snap the Cavs’ 13-game winning streak. Tip is slated for 7:00 p.m.