Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Bulls
SCOUTING THE PACERS: The Pacers (16-20) have won consecutive games for the fourth time this season but they're still looking for their first three-game streak. Having a healthy Danny Granger should help the Pacers avoid a repeat of the last meeting, when the Bulls jumped out to a 25-8 lead on their way to a 92-73 victory on Dec. 13. Granger has averaged 28.0 points in his last five games against the Bulls. Three Pacers scored at least 20 points in a 111-103 win at Philadelphia on Tuesday - Granger led the way with 27 - and Indiana got another balanced effort Wednesday against Dallas. Brandon Rush had a game-high 20 while Granger and Darren Collison each scored 17, but it was rookie Paul George's 16-point effort that was the talk of a 102-89 win. George, who hit 4 of 6 from 3-point range, has reached double figures in three of six games since coach Jim O'Brien stuck him back in the rotation. He'd played in only three of the Pacers' previous 24 contests. Indiana has won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 28-30. It hasn't won three straight since a four-game run April 4-10. The Pacers should feel good about their chances Friday if Collison can continue his hot streak. He's averaged 17.2 points in his last six games, and Indiana is 10-7 when he scores 14 or more. Collison, however, has averaged just 6.0 in three games versus Chicago.
SCOUTING THE BULLS: The Bulls try to avoid a fourth straight road loss to a sub-.500 opponent. Chicago (25-13) owns an eight-game lead over second-place Indiana in the Central largely thanks to a 17-3 home record. The Bulls open a stretch of seven of eight at the United Center against Southeast-leading Miami on Saturday, but first they'll get a chance to solve their road issues. Chicago's 96-91 loss at Charlotte on Wednesday was its third straight away from home to opponents that are a combined 32 games below .500. The Bulls have allowed an average of 82.4 points during a seven-game home winning streak but have surrendered at least 96 in each of their last three road games. They forced a season-low seven turnovers against the Bobcats. Another problem Wednesday was their slow start, getting outscored 36-22 in the opening 12 minutes. Chicago has allowed an average of 27.1 first-quarter points in January - 3.9 more than the season's first two months. Derrick Rose has been struggling in road games, shooting 40.2 percent - 3 for 25 from 3-point range - and averaging 5.0 turnovers over the last seven.
INJURY REPORT: The Pacers are healthy. For the Bulls, Joakim Noah (right thumb) is out.
SPECIAL EVENT: IndyCar drivers Graham Rahal and J.R. Hildebrand will be signing autographs from 6-6:30pm in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pavilion at Conseco Fieldhouse. Each fan getting autographs will receive an IMS/Pacers Smartphone sleeve.
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BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game and Stacy Paetz on the sideline, with a pre-game show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bob "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee handling the sideline and pre-game duties.
CHAT: You can chat live with other fans around the country while monitoring Twitter posts from Pacers' celebrities on-site throughout the game.