INDIANAPOLIS – His sixth NBA season has been a slow transition in getting acclimated with a new team, so T.J. Warren admittedly was pressing too much.
On a Sunday night when the Indiana Pacers had a makeshift lineup with three injured starters sidelined, Warren adjusted well to playing a more prominent role with a season-high
26 points in a 108-95 home win over the Bulls.
“It’s definitely been a process,” said Warren, acquired in the offseason after five years with Phoenix. “I’m just trying to figure out how I can fit in and where I can be effective on this team. It’s a whole new system with guys who have been together for like a month and a half now. We’re still learning each other.”
A Pacers squad already missing its best player – All-Star guard Victor Oladipo has yet to make his season debut in his recovery from knee surgery – also was without forward/center Myles Turner (ankle) and center Domantas Sabonis (calf bruise).
That meant McMillan was tinkering with lineups he hadn’t even tried in practice, but they worked as the Pacers won their third straight game and sixth in a row against the Bulls.
The Bulls (2-5), winless in five road games, lamented a lost opportunity against an opponent missing key players.
“We’ve been the short-handed team that went out and scrapped it and junkyard-dogged it and beat teams that maybe we shouldn’t have beaten,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “We haven’t been the team that’s favored very often. And maybe that’s the lesson we’ve got to learn, that whether you’re favored or not, or whether they’re hurt or not, you’ve got to bring it.”
Zach LaVine led the Bulls with
21 points, and Wendell Carter Jr. added 20.
“We’ve got to take advantage of opportunities like this,” said Bulls reserve forward Thaddeus Young, who had 12 points. “I told the team in the postgame meeting this is what we call a trap game. We just didn’t take advantage.”
Bulls: LaVine joined select company Friday in his 93rd game in bumping his career point total to 2,020. The only other Bulls to score more than 2,000 points in fewer games were Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (73 games) and Derrick Rose (86), according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Pacers: Rookie reserve center Goga Bitadze, drafted 18th overall, is making the most of his first extended playing time with nine points against the Bulls after scoring 10 against Cleveland on Friday. Before that, he had just two points in two games and did not play in two others.
At one point in the first half, the Pacers’ lineup featured nothing but T.J.’s and Holidays with center TJ Leaf, forward T.J. Warren, forward T.J. McConnell, guard Justin Holiday and guard Aaron Holiday.
Bulls: Host L.A. Lakers on Tuesday night.
Pacers: At Charlotte on Tuesday night.
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