Ex-Pacers assistant Boylen’s first game as Bulls coach is tonight — in Indy
The Pacers know the on-court personnel, of course, last facing the Bulls on Nov. 2, when Fred Hoiberg was still calling the shots in Chicago and Darren Collison’s jump shot was the difference in a 107-105 Pacers victory.
Hoiberg, though, was fired Monday, and when the Bulls take the court against the Pacers, associate head coach Jim Boylen will work his first game as head coach. Boylen was a Pacers assistant coach under Frank Vogel from 2011-13.
The Bulls will enter the post-Hoiberg era on a six-game losing streak, the most recent defeat coming Saturday when they were upended 121-105 by the Houston Rockets. Chicago has won only one of its last 11 games.
One reason for optimism in Chicago, though, was the return of big man Lauri Markkanen, who scored 10 points in 26 minutes in his season debut against the Rockets after missing time with an elbow injury. Markkanen is expected to start Tuesday after coming off the bench at Houston.
At 5-19, tied for last in the Eastern Conference, the rebuilding Bulls have struggled in most departments. They are 28th in the 30-team league with 103.4 points per game and have given up 113 points per game, 24th in the league. Only two teams have a worse point differential than the Bulls’ minus-9.6 mark.
“You might see a bit different style of play on the offensive end as we get going,” Boylen told reporters at his introductory press conference Monday. “You got to put your hand print on it and make it yours. But you have to realize there’s a level of shock that the players have to deal with.”
The Pacers are facing far less turmoil. They will return home Tuesday after going 2-2 on a road trip to the West Coast, picking up the pieces after losing the final two games of the trip at Los Angeles against the Lakers and at Sacramento.
But the Pacers were without guard Victor Oladipo, who has missed the last seven games with a sore right knee and remains out indefinitely. Oladipo’s return date remains unknown, but he did have an on-court workout last week.
Collison, veteran Doug McDermott and rookie Aaron Holiday have stepped up their roles on the perimeter in Oladipo’s absence, while forward Domantas Sabonis has had an increased presence. The Pacers have averaged 109.4 points per game without Oladipo — better than their 106.2 mark for the season.
But the Pacers are giving up 105.6 points per game on defense without their All-Star, which is above their NBA-leading mark of 102.7 per game. The Pacers’ defense is second in the NBA, giving up 37.5 field goals per game.
But instead of seeing progress with their new look, the Pacers actually regressed in multiple areas during their 111-110 defeat at Sacramento on Saturday.
The Pacers not only had 25 turnovers against the Kings, their defense was picked apart, too. Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein shot 8 of 13 from the field and had the game-winning put-back with 16 seconds remaining. The Kings also shot 13 of 29 (44.8 percent) from 3-point range.
“All of that starts with controlling the basketball,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan told reporters after Saturday’s game. “… When the ball breaks down the defense and it’s getting to the paint and that big (man) has to step over (to help), you’re giving up rebounding position. Everything starts with controlling the ball so everybody can stay with their man, box out and rebound.”