The Chicago Bulls brought the Pacers season-opening winning streak to a screeching halt at nine games Saturday night at the United Center. The Bulls took a ten point lead within five minutes of the opening tip and cruised past the Pacers, 110-94.
"We all had an off night," said Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. "I did. Each of our guys did. I don't think anybody on our team had a great night. We were out of sync offensively and defensively."
Pacers leading scorer Paul George failed to score 20 points for the first time this season. George shot 3-for-14 and scored just 12 points.
"It was frustrating," said George. "I just couldn't get in a groove like I usually do. I understand it's a long season. I'm going to have nights like this where shots aren't falling. I'm just trying to make sure I don't have many of them."
Lance Stephenson, who issued the challenge before the season for his team to start 10-0, threw up an early air ball three-pointer and finished 5-for-14 from the field with 12 points.
"We struggled in the beginning of the game," said Stephenson, who missed all four of his three-point attempts. "We just couldn't get in our groove. We tried to get back in it in the second half, but they just kept hitting shots."
Bulls star Derrick Rose returned from a sore hamstring to score 20 points, including six of the Bulls 11 three-pointers. The Bulls shot 51% from the field, an incredible 58% from three-point range, against the best defense in the NBA. The Pacers had been holding opponents to 39% shooting.
Luol Deng led the Bulls with 23 points, 12 in the first quarter. The Pacers trailed 60-35 at the half. The Bulls (5-3) led by as many as 33 points in the third quarter and became the first team to reach 100 points against the Pacers.
"It's one game," said Roy Hibbert, who led the Pacers with 14 points, and grabbed 10 rebounds. "It wasn't going to last forever. To me, the season starts now to see how we handle adversity and bounce back. We haven't been challenged like this. We have to show what we're made of."
Chris Copeland saw his most extensive action for the Pacers, scoring 13 points in 16 minutes. He was ejected along with Bulls forward Carlos Boozer on a late double technical foul with 21 seconds left in the game.
"I don't have any problem with Boozer," said Copeland. "I felt like he pushed me in my back and I pushed him back. I'm not here to fight. I've never been ejected from a game in my life. I'm not here for that. But as a man, you're not going to push me in my back."
The Pacers (9-1) play in New York Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.