If the Indiana Pacers were hoping to send a message Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls, it's been received. That's what happens when you deliver a dominant win on national television against one of the league's best teams, as Indiana did with a 97-80 beat down of the Bulls at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The marquee game on Wednesday's schedule, the Pacers made sure to take advantage of an early opportunity to assert themselves in a crowded Eastern Conference. Indiana is now 5-0 for the first time in 42 years, the latest and greatest sign of the team's arrival in the league's upper echelon.
Trailing by six points at halftime, Indiana turned the game into a rout with a 60-37 second half, often showing a devastating two-way punch reminscient to the team's effort against Miami in the East Finals last spring. The Bulls' offense completely collapsed in the second half, looking completely out of sync as the Pacers pressured the entire floor.
And when those Bulls possessions went faulty, the Pacers found transition opportunities like this one:
Lance Stephenson started the game just 1-of-10 from the field, but still finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists. More importantly, he contributed to that overwhelming defensive effort, which held the Bulls to just 36 percent shooting and 17 turnovers.
Roy Hibbert, very much the defensive behemoth we've become accustomed to, delivered on that end with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots, though he only scored eight points. This was fine on a night where the Bulls, one of the league's best teams at scoring down low, finished with just 14 points in the paint.
It wasn't all bad for the Bulls, as Derrick Rose and Luol Deng scored 17 points apiece, but the results are all the same. For Indiana, this is the first big win in what should be a season full of them.