Bulls fall short in frantic final seconds at home in loss to Pacers

(MCT) — CHICAGO — Here’s hoping Benny the Bull has a combat pay clause in his contract, fans who paid full price for tickets at least won the scoreboard doughnut race and Richard Hamilton’s torn plantar fascia heals quickly.

Already without Derrick Rose, the Bulls faced a Pacers team without Danny Granger Tuesday night at the United Center and what transpired, particularly through three quarters, tested coaches’ patience and homebound fans’ remote control batteries.

What it didn’t challenge was the scoreboard operator, who merely had to dial up Pacers 80, Bulls 76. And the quest for the first three-game winning streak of the season continues.

The only quarter that showed a pulse was the fourth, and the Bulls left it irate over a no-call. Luol Deng drove the baseline on a well-executed backcut with less than 6 seconds remaining and the Bulls down two, drawing heavy contact from Roy Hibbert. But no call came as coach Tom Thibodeau exploded with anger.

“In my eyes, he got wiped out,” Thibodeau said, adding he got no explanation from the officials. “He had a layup. It was a train wreck. But I’m not going to put it on the officials. We still have to get it done. A tough call went against us.”

David West then iced the victory with two free throws.

“He is the best in the league at exercising verticality,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Hibbert’s defense. “That is what earns him the no-calls. If you can jump straight up and absorb contact, you’re not going to have the call called.”

After shooting the Bulls back from a seven-point, fourth-quarter deficit, Nate Robinson missed a 3-pointer with just more than two minutes left and the game tied. Paul George, spectacular all night with 34 points, pushed the Pacers ahead for good with a 20-foot jumper.

After the teams traded misses, Robinson forced an alley-oop over Joakim Noah’s head that sailed out of bounds, one of 19 Bulls’ turnovers that the Pacers converted into 23 points. Robinson had three in the final quarter.

“I take the blame for this one,” Robinson said. “Down the stretch, I have to be smarter with the ball, make the right plays and execute.”

Still, when Taj Gibson rebounded West’s missed jumper and called time with 14.1 seconds left, the Bulls had their futile chance.

“I thought I got fouled, but I’m mad at myself that I didn’t get a shot up,” Deng said. “When he contacted me, I lost the ball. If I had got a shot up, even if I missed it, a teammate could’ve gotten a rebound.”

Robinson scored 11 of his team-high 19 in the fourth. Carlos Boozer added his seventh double-double in nine games and Jimmy Butler grabbed a career-high nine rebounds.

Neither team shot above 38.4 percent and the Bulls posted a season-low for points.

“We got the shots we wanted,” Robinson said. “We just didn’t make them. And we didn’t play well down the stretch.”