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Markkanen scores 32 as Bulls beat Pacers 119-107

December 30, 2017

Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, center, goes to the basket against Indiana Pacers forward Alex Poythress, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

CHICAGO (AP) — Nikola Mirotic came in and started firing away. Lauri Markkanen took over for Chicago in the second half.

The sharp-shooting big men just overwhelmed the Indiana Pacers.

Markkanen scored a career-high 32 points, Mirotic finished with 28 and the surging Bulls beat the Pacers 119-107 on Friday night for their third consecutive win.

“We just keep believing in each other and playing for each other,” Markkanen said.

Led by Mirotic and Markkanen, Chicago made 18 of 39 3-point attempts in its 10th win in 12 games. Robin Lopez and Bobby Portis each scored 12 points, helping the Bulls to their seventh straight victory at home for their longest such streak since a seven-game run spanning two seasons in 2013.

It was the first meeting between the teams since Indiana erased a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter of a 98-96 victory on Dec. 6. It was one of the low points so far this season for suddenly interesting Bulls (13-22), and they gained a measure of revenge by turning away another charge by the Pacers in the final period.

“Really since the last time we played Indiana on the road, when we had that devastating loss, our guys have really kind of found themselves, found each other,” coach Fred Hoiberg said.

Darren Collison scored 30 points for Indiana (19-17), which has dropped three in a row and four of six. Lance Stephenson had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Domantas Sabonis finished with 14 points and nine boards.

“The effort was there sometimes, it just wasn’t there for a whole 48 minutes,” Collison said. “We’ve got to do better, but we can’t keep saying that. At some point we’ve got to just go out there and do it.”

Stephenson started in place of Victor Oladipo, who missed his second straight game because of a sore right knee and is doubtful for Sunday’s matchup with Minnesota. Oladipo, who is averaging a team-high 24.9 points in his first season with the Pacers, had an MRI that showed no structural damage.

“Basically what we’ve learned from that is that he needs some time,” coach Nate McMillan said. “There’s some swelling.”

The Bulls also played without a key guard after Kris Dunn was scratched with left knee tendinitis. But Jerian Grant had 11 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds after he found out right before the game that he was in the starting lineup.

“I’ve started games before so it wasn’t too big of an adjustment,” Grant said. “I was ready.”

Chicago opened a 103-84 lead on David Nwaba’s layup with 7:46 left. Indiana then ripped off 11 of the next 14 points to close to 106-95 on Stephenson’s basket with 4:49 remaining.

But Mirotic responded with a layup and Markkanen hit two free throws to run the Bulls’ lead back out to 15.

BOUNCEBACK GAME

Mirotic had a season-low four points on 2-for-4 shooting in Wednesday night’s 92-87 win over the New York Knicks. But he made three 3-pointers in the first quarter on his way to 17 first-half points against Indiana.

“It’s all about being consistent now,” Mirotic said. “That’s my goal. That’s been something I’ve been struggling (with) the last couple years.”

TIP-INS

Pacers: Stephenson was 8 for 19 from the field. He has scored in double figures in five of his last six games. ... Turner has at least one block in 27 of his 29 games this season.

Bulls: Mirotic went 8 for 16 from 3-point range. Markkanen was 5 for 9 from beyond the arc. ... G Zach LaVine, who is coming back from left knee surgery, worked out Thursday and Friday. He is scheduled for six straight days of contact beginning on Saturday, including four days with Chicago’s G League affiliate. “Obviously it’s a very important part of the process for Zach,” Hoiberg said, “and hopefully everything goes great, and you know we’ll kind of take it from there.”

UP NEXT

Pacers: Host Minnesota on Sunday. The Pacers beat the Timberwolves 130-107 on Oct. 24.

Bulls: Visit Washington on Sunday for their first meeting of the season.

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Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap

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For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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