Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers at Bulls 120125
Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012 at Chicago, 8 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (11-5) vs. Bulls (16-3)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: Indiana will try to snap a nine-game losing streak in Chicago that includes all three games in last season's first-round playoff series. In their only home game in a span of nearly two weeks, the Pacers put up a clunker Tuesday and lost 102-83 to Orlando. Having just concluded a three-game Western Conference road trip, they now begin another three-gamer that also includes stops in Boston and Orlando, so the challenge is obvious for a Pacers team that hasn't lost two in a row this season.
The defense has been generally strong. Orlando was just the second team to break 100 against the Pacers, snapping a streak of nine consecutive sub-100 games for the opposition -- the longest since the 2005-06 season. The offense, on the other hand, has been erratic. The Pacers had just eight assists against Orlando -- one in the second half. In their five losses, the Pacers have averaged just 85.7 points, .389 shooting and 13.6 assists. In their 11 wins, the numbers are 95.7 points, .429 shooting and 19.3 assists. Though they are an inside-out offense running through the post tandem of Roy Hibbert and David West, the Pacers' success has hinged on 3-point shooting. They've shot .452 from the arc in wins, compared to .254 in losses.
SCOUTING THE BULLS: It doesn't seem to matter who's in or out, the Bulls just keep motoring along. Derrick Rose has missed four games with a toe injury, but they won three of those. He returned to the lineup for a 110-95 rout of New Jersey Monday that gave the Bulls an 8-0 home record. With a win tonight, they'll match their best start at the United Center since 1995-96. There are other health concerns. Luol Deng has a torn ligament in his left wrist, is out tonight and is listed as "week-to-week." The injury could require surgery but Deng wants to try to play as much as possible. Taj Gibson has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle. The Bulls lead the league in scoring defense (85.8) and the Pacers have had problems solving that particular problem. In sweeping two preseason meetings this year, the Bulls held Indiana to averages of 85.5 points and .353 shooting.
KEY MATCHUP: Coming off a game in which he produced zero assists, Indiana point guard Darren Collison must get the ball moving offensively while dealing with the challenge of defending the reigning MVP. Rose is averaging 20.9 points, 8.6 assists, and 3.6 rebounds.
QUOTE MARKS: "We are in good position. It's early in the season. We just have to take this loss and move on. It's a long season. We must continue to grow and help each other." - Indiana guard Paul George
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, A.J. Price (strep throat) is day to day, while Jeff Foster (lower back procedure) is out. For the Bulls, Luol Deng (left wrist) and Taj Gibson (left ankle) are out, John Lucas II (groin) is day to day, and Joakim Noah (left ankle) and Derrick Rose (left toe) are game-time decisions.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner calling the game with Brooke Olzendam hosting the pre-game show at 7:30. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle in his 24th season of play-by-play. Austin Croshere will serve as analyst with Kevin Lee hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.