Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Bulls 120305
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (23-12) vs. Bulls (31-8)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: After rolling up six consecutive wins against sub-.500 teams, the Pacers now enter a gauntlet that will test their progress, with four games this week against most of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. To extend the streak to seven, which would be the longest since the 2003-04 season, the Pacers will have to knock off the mighty Bulls on their home floor. Indiana won 95-90 in the United Center on Jan. 25, the first of just two home losses for the Bulls this season.
Dominant in the win streak, the Pacers have enjoyed an average victory margin of 17.5 points while outscoring opponents by 112 points in the second and third periods. The offense has racked up five consecutive games of at least 1000 points (averaging 106.2) while the defense has allowed 86.5 points and 41 percent shooting in the streak. In three of their last five games, the Pacers have led by at least 30 and in four of the last five the starters were able to rest for most or all of the fourth quarter.
Danny Granger has racked up 45 points on 16-of-32 shooting in the last two while Paul George has nine steals. Jeff Foster will miss the next two games with a sore lower back but Lou Amundson has filled in admirably at backup center, totaling 51 minutes, 21 points and 24 rebounds in the last three games, including his first double-double of the season (11 points, 10 rebounds), Saturday in New Orleans. David West had his sixth double-double in that game (14 points, 13 rebounds).
Dealt a dose of their own medicine when last these teams met, the Bulls appear hungry for revenge. Chicago bolted to a 54-44 halftime lead but the Pacers controlled the second half, limiting the home team to 34 points on 15 of 49 shooting (.306), including 6 of 28 (.214) in the fourth quarter. Still, the game boiled down to one final exchange, when Rose pulled a LeBron. Trailing 92-90, Rose chose not to take the decisive shot, instead dishing to Brian Scalabrine, who missed a 3-pointer. Paul George won the scramble for the long rebound and pushed it ahead to Roy Hibbert, who sealed the victory with a dunk.
All five Indiana starters scored in double figures, with Granger scoring 22 and Hibbert 20 with four blocks as the Pacers shot .475. Rose scored 24 but had just three assists and shot 9 of 19. Rip Hamilton (6 of 20) and Carlos Boozer (5 of 14) also were ineffective but Ronnie Brewer (20 points, 10 rebounds) gave the Pacers fits with his activity and athleticism. Chicago was without Luol Deng and Taj Gibson the first time around but both are healthy now, though Hamilton is day to day with a thigh injury.
KEY MATCHUP: The difference in the Pacers-Bulls playoff series last May was Chicago's ownership of the fourth quarter, outscoring Indiana by 36 points in five games. West wasn't with the Pacers then and showed the ability to be a difference-maker in that regard, scoring nine points as Indiana built a seven-point fourth quarter lead and held on for the victory.
QUOTE MARKS: "I'll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game. I can't wait to play them again." - Rose after the Pacers' Jan. 25 win in Chicago
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (back) is out. For the Bulls, Rip Hamilton (thigh) is day-to-day.
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 Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 7:30. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Austin Croshere, 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.