Bender played a career-high 46 minutes, scoring 18 points and
grabbing a career-best 10 rebounds, as the Pacers snapped a
five-game losing streak Monday by beating the Chicago Bulls 93-81.
"I thought I'd be further along right now, but I have to be
patient with myself," said Bender, in his third season since going
directly to the NBA from high school.
"I guess you could say it was my best game."
Reggie Miller scored 20 points, Al Harrington -- in his fourth
season after going from the preps to the pros -- added 18 and Jalen
Rose had 12 of his 16 points in the second half.
"It takes sacrifice and it's a process," Rose said of blending
the young players with the veterans.
"There is an adjustment period and you've got to humble
yourself. You've got to swallow your pride and understand there are
better days ahead."
Miller, who didn't play in the fourth quarter, agreed.
"The only way this team will get better is for the younger guys
to get on the floor and make plays and make mistakes," Miller
said. "It's a fine line. You still want to be able to win games."
Ron Mercer led Chicago with 18 points and Ron Artest added 16.
The Bulls had 25 turnovers, 15 in the second half.
"When someone is out in the league, it always seems someone
steps up," Chicago's brad Miller said. "Bender stepped up today.
I'm not sure they missed anything without Jermaine O'Neal."
Bender, starting his second straight game with O'Neal sidelined
by injury, scored 16 first-half points and gave Indiana a 50-44
lead when he hit a 3-pointer from the deep corner just before the
Indiana took a 69-61 lead after three when Austin Croshere hit a
3-pointer with just under a minute left and Harrington converted a
three-point play with nine seconds remaining in the quarter.
Rose's steal, driving layup and free throw for a three-point
play and another jumper by Croshere made it 80-65, completing the
Chicago mounted a mini-rally to get within nine, but Rose sank a
3-pointer and Harrington hit two baskets as Indiana increased its
lead and regained control.
Bulls' rookies Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry, also trying to
make the jump from high school to the NBA, are still trying to find
their way -- just as Harrington and Bender were several years ago.
Chandler was scoreless in 13 minutes and Curry had three in 11
Game notes Bender also blocked three shots. ... O'Neal missed his
fourth straight game with a hyperextended left knee. Jamaal Tinsley
returned after missing a game with a bruised left hip and left
elbow. ... In a rarity, both teams shot 44.7 percent in the first
half, attempting the same number of shots (38) and making the same
(17). ... The Bulls finished the game shooting 43 percent. In their
last game Saturday against Washington, they made just 24.7 percent.
... The Pacers are 2-6 in their last eight games, both wins over