Friday, March 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Game Preview: Pacers vs Bulls

Scott Agness | Updated: March 20, 2014, 5:15 p.m.

Matchup

We’ve had to wait a long time — 126 days in total — for these two division rivals to meet again. The Pacers (50-18) and the Bulls (38-30) played twice in the first 10 games of the regular season, but won't play again until Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In that time, a lot has changed for both squads.

Since the two teams last met, the Bulls again lost former league MVP Derrick Rose for the season due to a knee injury, signed former Pacers point guard D.J. Augustin, and traded Luol Deng to Cleveland for multiple draft picks. In the trade for Deng, the Bulls also acquired Andrew Bynum, who immediately was waived for cap space and later signed with the Pacers on Feb. 1. The Bulls also sent Pike product Marquis Teague to Brooklyn, signed a couple of players to 10-day contracts, and picked up sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette after his contract was bought out in Sacramento.

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Despite the injury to Rose and the high number of moves by team officials, coach Tom Thibodeau has his team competing at a high level, as usual. Since Jan. 1, the Bulls have won more games (26) than any other Eastern Conference team. In the last month, they have posted quality wins over both Miami and Houston.

As to be expected with a Thibodeau-coached team, they’re playing with ton of heart and their defense has been strong. Over their last 12 games, the Bulls have held all but one team (San Antonio) to 97 points or less. They are second only to the Pacers in field goal percentage defense and points allowed.

Believe it or not, Augustin has thrived in his new situation in Chicago. After not panning out in Toronto at the beginning the year, he signed with the Bulls after being waived and has since led Chicago in scoring (14.3 points per game) and assists (5.0 per contest). He has also been playing upwards of 30 minutes a game.

But Joakim Noah is unquestionably Chicago's leader, playing with a competitive edge and spirit that you just cannot teach. He and Roy Hibbert don’t like each other but respect each other’s games, so that’s always a fun matchup to keep an eye on. Noah recorded three triple-doubles in a 22-day span, to move into a tie for second-most triples-doubles this season with Golden State’s Stephen Curry. Indiana’s Lance Stephenson has an NBA-high four.

The Pacers are coming off a disappointing loss in New York where they dug a deep hole, but did enough to draw within one in the final quarter. The players have voiced their displeasure with the lack of ball movement and team play, and how they need to get back to playing for one another.

Indiana and Chicago already played twice, with the home team winning each time. Now they’ll finish the series with two meetings over the next four days.

Probable Starters

George Hill

George Hill

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

Paul George

Paul George

David West

David West

Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Kirk Hinrich

Kirk Hinrich

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler

Mike Dunleavy

Mike Dunleavy

Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah

Injury Update

Pacers: Andrew Bynum (out, sore right knee), C.J. Watson (out, right hamstring strain)
Bulls: Derrick Rose (out, right knee)

Quotable

“The right perspective is that we’re playing pretty well, we have a really good team. Nobody needs to panic and go nuts. Stay the course, keeping doing what we’re doing. We’re winning a lot more than we’re losing and just try to get better everyday. Really it’s about building habits that are going to help us win playoff games. That’s the biggest thing that we’re trying to get accomplished right now.” – Frank Vogel

“I think it’s Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. I think those two guys contribute enormously to winning basketball. With the way they’re coached and the way they’re led with the passion of Noah, I think that’s what it’s about.” – Frank Vogel on the Bulls

“He’s playing with great confidence. Sometimes it’s about the system. When he played starter minutes for us, he played like he is now. So it’s not a big surprise. Some guys, as we’ve seen here if they’re only playing 11 [or] 12 minutes a game, have trouble contributing at a high level and making a positive impact in the game.” – Frank Vogel on D.J. Augustin

“We’re not playing a good brand of basketball. It’s good enough at times to win, but it’s not good enough on a consistent enough basis to win particularly tough games, whether it be on the road or (against) teams that are a little more tied together than we are.” – David West

“With what we have going on, we would love to maximize on the opportunities and increase that lead but in the bigger scheme (of things), we’re in a good position now. We’ve got to get back to playing some good basketball, though, because we have some tough games on our schedule that can come down to moving us to second or staying in first.” – Paul George

“Start the game off moving the ball and hopefully hit a couple of shots and defend at a high level. Sometimes shots don’t go in but we at least have to move the ball.” – Roy Hibbert on how they can prevent falling behind early

Noteworthy

  • Indiana has won three straight games against Chicago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
  • The Pacers are 21-1 at home this season against Eastern Conference teams.
  • The Bulls are 25-5 this season when scoring at least 96 points.

Last Meeting

November 16: The hot-shooting Bulls put an end to the Pacers’ 9-0 start, the best in the NBA to begin the year. Despite being the third-worst 3-point shooting team in the league at 28.8 percent, Chicago made 11-of-19 tries (58 percent). The Pacers fell in a deep 33-point hole, one they were unable to overcome.

The Pacers had six finish in double figures, led by Roy Hibbert's 14 points and 10 rebounds. David West had 13 points and so, too, did Chris Copeland — all coming in the final 17 minutes. Paul George had just 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting. Joakim Noah scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the third quarter. Derrick Rose went for 20 and Taj Gibson chipped in 14.

Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana – Chris Denari (play-by-play), Austin Croshere (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: FM 107.5/AM 1070 The Fan, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter/host)

Ticket Information

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