This was more like it.
Coming off one of their worst performances of the season, the Indiana Pacers followed with one of their better shows in recent games.
On a night all five starters scored double figures, Luis Scola had a game-high 19 points off the bench to help power the Pacers to a 91-79 win Friday against the visiting Chicago Bulls.
With the victory, the Pacers (51-18) maintained their three-game lead on Miami in the race for the No. 1 Eastern Conference playoff seed and, in the process, erased the bitter memory of Monday’s 92-86 loss at New York.
In that game, the Pacers were efficient defensively but lethargic on offense. The result was a season-low 12 assists and a humbling defeat against a sub-.500 foe.
This time, the Pacers were efficient defensively and active on offense. The result was a staggering 27 assists and a sterling win against a potential playoff opponent.
Equally important, the triumph was a much-needed confidence boost for a team that hasn’t fared well of late against plus-.500 opposition.
Of Indiana’s past 12 wins, Chicago (38-31) is the first against a team with a winning record since a Feb. 7 overtime victory against Portland.
“A really good win against a team that’s playing as well as anybody in the NBA,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. “I have great respect for the Chicago Bulls. It was a solid defensive effort, more than anything, across the board.
“It was probably the best defensive game we’ve seen in some time.”
Paul George, who recorded the second triple-double of his career, agreed.
“We got back to playing some sound defense and playing offensively the right way,” said George, who had 10 points, 12 rebounds and a season-high 10 assists. “This is a great quality win against a great ball club. They’re playing really well right now.
“It’s good that we were able to get back on track against a good team.”
Indiana received solid contributions across the board.
Roy Hibbert had his 15th double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. He also had four blocked shots.
Lance Stephenson had 15 points, and David West and George Hill added 10 apiece, marking the 14th time this season all five starters reached double figures. The Pacers are 12-2 in those games.
In addition to his season-high 19 points, Scola — who was 9 of 12 from the field — also had six rebounds and a blocked shot. Evan Turner had six points and seven rebounds off the bench, the latter a season-high since joining the Pacers.
“I think we just communicated well,” Turner said. “I think our energy was really high, and we went out to send
Indiana dominated the boards 51-36 and outshot the Bulls from the field 43 percent to 36.4 percent.
Jimmy Butler and former Pacers player D.J. Augustin led Chicago with 17 points each. Joakim Noah had 12 points and a game-high 13 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer added 10 points.
Former Pacer Mike Dunleavy had nine points and a game-high five blocked shots for the Bulls.