INDIANAPOLIS: Jimmy Butler scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds and the Chicago Bulls held off a late rally to beat Indiana 92-90 for their seventh consecutive NBA victory.
Spanish star Pau Gasol added 20 points while Derrick Rose contributed 17 on Monday despite 5-of-20 shooting for the visiting Bulls, who improved to 22-9, two games behind Toronto for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls nearly squandered a 21-point lead with a sluggish fourth quarter in which they were outscored 25-11.
A 3-point play by Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy, who pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds, put the Bulls ahead 75-54 late in the third quarter, but Chicago missed an unprecedented 17 shots in a row until Gasol broke the futility streak with a turnaround jumper with 3:27 remaining in the fourth quarter.
While the Bulls went silent, the Pacers scored 20 points in a row at one stretch, with Lavoy Allen’s layup midway into the final period putting Indiana in front and Luis Scola’s basket putting the Pacers ahead 86-83.
Butler sank a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining to put the Bulls back on top and C.J. Watson missed a baseline 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game for Indiana.
Chris Copeland came off the bench to lead Indiana’s six double-figure scorers with 17 points, netting 13 of them in the fourth quarter.
The Pacers slid to 11-21, 11 1/2 games behind the pace-setting Bulls in the Central division.