The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers find themselves in the playoff mix in the mediocre Eastern Conference. Neither team has looked like a serious contender of late, however.
Both teams look to get back on track Wednesday at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Bulls have had little success.
With less than two months to go in the regular season, Chicago (22-34) is 2 1/2 games out of the East's final playoff spot, while Indiana (22-35) is three games back. Neither has been able to make a postseason push lately, with the Bulls losing five of seven and the Pacers 12 of 15.
After falling to Houston 110-97 on Sunday, Chicago lost at Dallas 102-94 on Monday in Jason Kidd's home debut for the Mavericks.
The Bulls fell a season-worst 12 games under .500 with Monday's defeat, and are trying to avoid losing three straight games for the first time since Dec. 21-26.
"Our guys battled, though, playing against two good teams," Chicago interim coach Jim Boylan said. "Now we're going to Indiana and try to take something from these games and go up play a division rival and a team that's right there with us chasing the playoffs."
The Bulls and Pacers have split their first two meetings, each team winning at home.
Chicago lost 117-102 at Conseco Fieldhouse on Dec. 12 - hardly a surprising outcome. The Bulls have dropped 17 of their last 19 games in Indiana since Michael Jordan retired in 1998.
The Bulls haven't played well anywhere on the road of late, losing four straight and 10 of 13 away from the United Center.
On Monday, Kirk Hinrich was ejected after getting two technical fouls in a matter of seconds late in the first half, and finished with no points in 11 minutes. Hinrich, though, had one of the best games of his career in Chicago's 108-95 win over Indiana on Jan. 23, recording a career-high 38 points with 10 assists and seven rebounds.
Ben Gordon had 25 points against Dallas after scoring a season-low five on 2-of-11 shooting in Sunday's loss to Houston. Gordon, the team leader with 20.0 points per game, is averaging 25.8 in his last four games against the Pacers.
Drew Gooden scored 17 points and Larry Hughes had 14 on Monday in their second game with the Bulls since arriving from Cleveland last week. With the Cavaliers this season, Gooden averaged 15.7 points and 9.0 rebounds in three games against the Pacers, while Hughes averaged 27.5 points in two games.
As poorly as the Bulls have played on the road of late, the Pacers have been nearly as bad at Conseco, losing eight of their last 10 there.
Indiana lost 102-98 to Toronto on Monday, and fell 13 games below .500 for the first time since its was 15-28 on Jan. 25, 1992.
The Pacers were up 13 in the first quarter and still led in the fourth, but could not hold on. They are 3-20 when scoring less than 100 points.
"We try to make adjustments,'' said forward Danny Granger, who had 20 points. "That is one of the drawbacks of the style that we play. We make runs and we give up runs. If we could cut off some of those runs, we'd probably be in a different situation right now.''
Granger is averaging 23.8 points - 5.6 better than his season average - his last four games. He had a career-high 33 points and seven rebounds in the loss to the Bulls last month.
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