INDIANAPOLIS -- Nikola Mirotic hit big shots all game for the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night.
Then when the time came, Jimmy Butler nailed the biggest shot, sinking a pull-up jumper with 3.7 seconds left to lift the Chicago Bulls to a 98-96 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Bankers Life Fieldhouse. A 3-point shot by Indiana's C.J. Miles bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
"We tried to have Niko come out and slip out on the screen," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "They had been switching on ball screens in the fourth quarter. We were trying to confuse them and slip him out. Jimmy was going to make a read on it. They both stayed out in no man's land. Jimmy rose up and knocked down a big shot."
Mirotic came off the bench to score 28 points, including a 3-pointer to tie it at 96-all with 2:19 to go.
"The option was for me to shoot the ball," Butler said. "If I wasn't open, I was going to pass it. I got a great screen by Niko; it was a great play call by coach."
The Bulls (37-37) started the game tied with Washington for the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference. They are fighting to get one of eight playoff spots.
"We knew we had to win this this one," Hoiberg said. "It would be a mountain to climb if we didn't get this one. It was a huge win. The guys stepped up big and made the right plays down the stretch. They defended well the last couple of possessions."
Chicago held the Pacers scoreless for the final 3:03, scoring the game's final five points.
Mirotic sank 9-of-18 shots, including 7-of-13 from 3-point range, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"My teammates tried to find me and Coach (Hoiberg) called some plays for me," Mirotic said. "So I found some open shots. It's about defense. When we play good defense. The offense is coming."
Butler finished with 14 points. Derrick Rose was limited to eight points in 4-of-15 shooting. Rose was slowed by elbow injury. Hoiberg said Rose will get it evaluated. Taj Gibson suffered a rib contusion and was limited to 10 minutes
Trailing 93-86 with 8:59 left in the fourth quarter, the Pacers went on a 10-0 run to take a 96-93 lead. The Pacers (39-35) then went cold.
"We've got to read defense and they switched things," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We didn't make shots. Sometimes it's a make or miss league."
Paul George, who scored a team-best 20 points for Indiana, said the offense was stagnant down the stretch.
"Despite the looks we go, we've got to get better looks than that," George said. "They executed down the stretch. I tip my cap to the Bulls."
Ian Mahinmi added 18 points for the Pacers.
The Pacers took a 71-69 lead on Lavoy Allen's dunk with 7:11 left in the third quarter. From there, Indiana built a 78-71 lead, only to see the Bulls close the quarter with a 13-6 spurt to tie it.
Mirotic scored 20 points in the first half to lead the Bulls to a 60-58 halftime lead. He sank 5 of 8 3-pointers in the opening half.
Bulls guard E'Twaun Moore, who had missed the previous six games with a left hamstring injury, returned to action in the first quarter. Moore finished with five points.
NOTES: Pacers F Paul George needs eight points to pass his own career high and move into fifth place in NBA franchise history for most points in a season. He has 1,730. ... Pacers G Monta Ellis has led the team in assists in six of the previous nine games while averaging 5.9 assists per game during that span. ... After finishing 29th in steals (6.2) during the 2014-15 season, the Pacers are fourth in the league in steals (9.1) this season. ... The Bulls have lost 183 games becausee of injury or illness this season. Last season, Chicago missed 148 total. ... The Bulls won the season series 3-1, winning 96-95 and 102-100 in overtime in Chicago and losing 104-92 at Indiana before Tuesday night's victory. ... Bulls F Doug McDermott leads the team in 3-pointers with 105. Last season, he made 13 3-pointers as a rookie.