INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nikola Vucevic looks as if he’s finding his fit in Chicago.
On Tuesday, he took advantage of Indiana’s missing big men by posting 32 points and 17 rebounds to help the Chicago Bulls overwhelm the short-handed Pacers 113-97.
Chicago has won two straight since snapping a six-game losing streak and moved within one game of the Pacers for the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference. Vucevic also had five assists while going 14 of 29 from the field. All-Star Zach LaVine added 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
“He’s very, very versatile and I think as he gets more comfortable with the guys he’ll become more and more efficient,” coach Billy Donovan said. ““I think he tries to play the right way and when you have a guy of his talent and he tries to play the right way, I think it becomes contagious.”
The combination was simply too much for Indiana, which started the game without two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis (sprained left ankle) and guard Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hip), before losing Myles Turner in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle.
Caris LeVert led the Pacers with 20 points and six rebounds. Edmond Sumner and Jeremy Lamb each scored 15 points as Indiana lost for the ninth time in 10 home games.
“We want to be better, I want to be better, guys want to be better,” Indiana coach Nate Bjorkgren said. “We have guys on this team I believe in very much.”
Chicago took control with a 15-3 run early in the second quarter, taking a 45-33 lead. It was never really close afterward. The Bulls led 62-49 at halftime. When the Pacers cut the deficit to 81-72 in the third quarter, Chicago answered with a 9-0 run, led by Vucevic and Indiana never got close again.
“If we can get him (Vucevic) his fair share of shots and have good balance with him and Zack that’s a big thing,” Donovan said.