The Chicago Bulls return home after a two-city swing down south through Dallas and New Orleans to catch up with their longtime Central Division rivals, the Indiana Pacers, for the second time this season. The Pacers captured the first matchup played in Indy, 108-95, back on November 3rd. Wendell Carter Jr. made nine of 10 shots on his way to posting a double-double (20 points/10 rebounds) for Chicago, while TJ Warren (26) and Malcolm Brogdon (22) each had 20+ point nights for Indiana.
The Pacers swept the season series last year, 4-0, and have now won seven in a row over the Bulls.
Not a whole lot has gone Chicago's way of late. The Bulls hit the floor this evening having lost five straight games and sport a depressing 13-25 record, overall. Add to the fact that they'll now have to play without starting center Wendell Carter Jr. for at least the next four-to-six weeks due to a serious ankle injury he suffered the other night in Dallas, on top of the fact that starting small forward Otto Porter continues to be sidelined for at least another month with a foot injury of his own, it would be easy for the team to simply toss in the towel and give up. But that's simply not a part of the character that makes up this blue-collar Chicago squad. Without fail, every Bulls opponent this season has praised them afterwards on how hard they play. As for a primary key to coming out on top tonight, the Bulls once again are going to need to produce another hardnosed, take-no-prisons approach at both ends of the floor.
To achieve any success offensively, the Bulls must play unselfishly, openly sharing the ball, constantly bouncing it from player-to-player and from side-to-side and exploit every opportunity that presents itself to attack the rim. All five players on the floor must stay involved in the action. The ball can't wind up trapped in any one player's hands while everyone else stands around and watches. Simply put, the offense can't become a series of isolation, one-on-one battles.
On defense, Chicago is going to need to deliver a rough and tumble effort with everyone nailing themselves to their assigned man, making life difficult for him when it comes to creating space. Collectively, the Bulls must go all out for every rebound and loose ball and consistently outhustle and outexecute the Pacers in every way.
To achieve these goals Chicago needs to stay focused and poised, communicating on defense and recognizing the right times to jump passing lanes and double-team the ball in order to force the Pacers to turn the ball over and give themselves a chance to streak down to the other end of the court to post easy scores in transition.