Larry Bird is getting tired of watching his Indiana Pacers rally for victories in the fourth quarter.
"We're in some kind of funk right now and hopefully we'll turn it around," the Pacers coach said after his team came back for a 96-87 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night.
"We were fortunate to win. I thought the Bulls, the first half, were manhandling us. ... Somehow these guys have to focus and concentrate before the game and just come out and play hard."
Reggie Miller, who scored a season-high 31 points to lead the Pacers, agreed.
"We cannot continue to fall behind, stay even and then take it in the fourth quarter," said Miller, who hit a season-high five 3-pointers and was 10-of-19 from the field.
Indiana avoided losing three straight games in the regular season for the first time since November 1997. Until this week, the Pacers had gone 84 games without losing two straight.
Indiana went on a 20-4 run spanning the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth to take the lead for good. Toni Kukoc, who led the Bulls with 29 points, hit a 3-pointer to give Chicago a 65-57 lead with 3:36 left in the third quarter.
Then after Miller missed two free throws, Indiana got the rebound and Miller hit a 3-pointer and was fouled. He completed the four-point play and the Pacers later pulled to within one point two free throws with 37 seconds remaining in the quarter. Randy Brown hit one of two free throws with 22 seconds remainin, giving Chicago a 69-67 lead after three quarters.
The Bulls then opened the fourth quarter with two turnovers, four missed shots from the field and two missed free throws by Ron Harper as they went scoreless for five minutes.
"Miller stepped up and made some good plays. We broke down in the fourth quarter," Chicago coach Tim Floyd said.
The Pacers tied the game at 69 on a layup by Antonio Davis and Chris Mullin's 3-pointer with 10:07 to play put Indiana ahead to stay. The Pacers, who hadn't led since the score was 4-2, scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter to lead 80-71 on a jumper by Travis Best.
Dickey Simpkins scored Chicago's first points of the period by making two free throws with 6:59 to play and brought the Bulls to within 80-77 with six minutes to go. Miller, who along with Best had seven points in the fourth quarter, responded with another 3-pointer and his jumper with 1:47 left made it 94-83.
"That's been the story of our year," Barry said. "We play well for a while and give ourselves a chance, then we don't stick with what got us there."
Chicago held an 11-point lead twice in the second quarter, A layup by Simpkins put the Bulls ahead 36-25 with 9:39 left in the half. Jalen Rose brought Indiana back, scoring nine points in the second quarter and when the Bulls missed their last six attempts from the field the score was deadlocked 44-44 at halftime.
- Boomer, the Pacers' mascot, is on the injured list after hurting his knee attempting a dunk during Indiana's last home game. He's expected to miss at least three more games.
- Chicago was playing back-to-back-to-back games for the second time this season and won only once each time.
- The Bulls came out hot, shooting 58 percent in the first quarter (11-of-19), but shot only 29 percent in the second period (5-of-17).
- Smits extended his streak of consecutive free throws made to 27 before missing a shot in the third period.
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