Bulls beat Pacers to tighten playoff race

Bulls beat Pacers to tighten playoff race

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers had a chance to put some distance between themselves and Chicago in the playoff race Tuesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

It didn’t happen as — once again — the Bulls scored in the waning moments to beat Indiana, 98-96, this time the final damage being a 17-foot jumper by guard Jimmy Butler with 3.7 seconds remaining.

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Nikola Mirotić: 28 points and 10 rebounds for Chicago (Associated Press file photo)

The Pacers had a chance to win it but a 3-pointer by guard C.J. Miles was just off the mark at the buzzer. Indiana was scoreless in the final 3:03.

The victory puts Chicago (37-37) within two games of the Pacers (39-35) for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. By winning the regular season series 3-1, the Bulls now hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Indiana.

“The option was for me to shoot the ball. If I wasn’t open, I was going to pass it but I got a great screen by Niko (Nikola Mirotić),” said Butler, who scored 14 points.

Mirotić came off the bench to score 28 points and grab 10 rebounds to lead Chicago. The 6-10 forward made 7-of-13 3-pointers.

Pau Gasol finished with 10 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 blocked shots. Former Purdue star E’Twaun Moore returned after missing six games due to a hamstring injury to score 5 points and snag 4 rebounds.

Paul George topped the Pacers with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists. Ian Mahinmi scored 18 points and pulled down 7 boards, Lavoy Allen had 9 points and 6 rebounds.

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The Pacers, who have eight games remaining in the regular season, host former Indiana University star Victor Oladipo and the Orlando Magic Thursday (7 p.m.).

Indiana plays at Philadelphia Saturday and at New York Sunday. Both games begin at 7:30 and can be seen on Fox Sports Indiana.

The Pacers next action at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is on Wednesday, April 6, when they host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Statistics via NBA.com.

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