Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Chicago, Game 1


By Conrad Brunner,

SCOUTING THE PACERS: Though Indiana closed the regular season with consecutive losses, that had little if any impact on the confidence built in the late-season run that produced the team's first playoff berth since 2006. Generally dismisses as a prohibitive underdog by the national media, the Pacers believe they can challenge the Bulls, based in large part on their 115-108 overtime victory on March 18 in Conseco Fieldhouse. In that game, they withstood a 42-point assault from Derrick Rose, recovered from the shock of blowing a 16-point fourth-quarter lead, rallied and regained control in overtime. Of course, in the other three losses to the Bulls, the Pacers scored fewer than 90 points and shot less than 41 percent in each game. Offensively, the Pacers must remain patient and continue to move the ball throughout the shot clock and not get frustrated if the first two options aren't there. Defensively, they must throw a variety of looks and combinations of defenders at Rose -- while making him work at the other end by maintaining the attack on offense -- in order to challenge Chicago's superstar.

SCOUTING THE BULLS: While Rose is certainly the engine that drives the top-seeded team in the NBA, there are many other weapons that make the Bulls a daunting opponent. Carlos Boozer is a dominant scorer in the low post who averaged 20 points and shot 52 percent in three games against the Pacers. Luol Deng can scorer either from the perimeter, the post or off the dribble and is a top-level defender at small forward. Joakim Noah averages a double-double while playing some of the best defense in the league at center. And the bench brings another wave of energy players including Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Kurt Thomas.

KEY MATCHUP: While the world focuses on Rose and Darren Collison out front, the heart of the matter for the Pacers may lie in the middle. Roy Hibbert has been their spiritual and emotional leader throughout the season and the team has tended to struggle when he is off his game. That certainly was the case against the Bulls as Hibbert averaged just 6.3 points on 31 percent shooting, committing 12 fouls in 93 minutes. Noah is very much a moving target, the kind of matchup that has vexed Hibbert in the past, but Indiana's big man must get established down low if the Pacers are to challenge the NBA's best team.

QUOTE MARKS: "I want to see where we are as a team. We are young, we have a lot of growing pains and we do stupid stuff sometimes. This will be the first real test we have under the lights with the pressure on us and I'm anxious to see how we perform." -- Granger

INJURY REPORT: The Pacers are healthy. The Bulls are healthy.

BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 1 p.m. on ESPN The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Austin Croshere with Rob Blackmon reporting.

INTERACT: You can chat live with fans around the country in our live game blog which begins at tipoff.

Playoff tickets for the NBA First Round match-up between the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls are available by clicking here. The 2011 Pacers Playoffs are proudly presented by Indiana University Health, Kroger, Stanley Security Solutions and XFINITY®.