Pacers at Bulls

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Game Preview: Pacers at Bulls

Friday, December 29, 2017 at 8:00 PM ET at the United Center
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Matchup

After back-to-back losses, the Pacers (19-16) will look to bounce back on Friday night in Chicago against the Bulls (12-22).

The Pacers will once again be without leading scorer Victor Oladipo due to soreness in his right knee. Oladipo, eighth in the NBA in scoring as of Wednesday afternoon at 24.9 points per game, missed Wednesday's loss to Dallas.

The injury is not believed to be a long-term concern, but it will keep Oladipo out until at least New Year's Eve, when Indiana hosts Minnesota.

Even without Oladipo, the Pacers put themselves in position to beat the Mavs on Wednesday night. The starting backcourt of Darren Collison (16 points and seven assists) and Lance Stephenson (16 points, a career-best 15 rebounds, and five assists) was great most of the night and Indiana led 90-84 after Stephenson's jumper with 5:00 to play.

But the offense stalled out down the stretch. The Blue & Gold went 2-for-12 from the field the rest of the way as Dallas outscored them 14-4 down the stretch. After the loss, Pacers coach Nate McMillan said he thought his team had good matchups down the stretch against Dallas' switching defense, but they just weren't able to capitalize in the closing minutes.

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The Bulls were abysmal to start the season, opening the year 3-20. But things seem to have clicked for Chicago since their visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Dec. 6. They led virtually all of that game before falling victim to Victor Oladipo's last-minute heroics, but they've been red hot since.

Remarkably, the Bulls have won nine of their last 11 games, with their only losses in that stretch coming at Eastern Conference frontrunners Boston and Cleveland.

Their strong stretch has directly coincided with the return of Nikola Mirotić. The 6-11 forward missed the start of the season after suffering facial fractures in a practice scuffle with teammate Bobby Portis, but he's been sensational since returning. Mirotić averaged 18.5 points and 7.6 rebounds over his first 10 games back with the Bulls, shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 48.3 percent from 3-point range.

Projected Starters

Pacers: PG - Darren Collison, SG - Lance Stephenson, SF - Bojan Bogdanovic, PF - Thaddeus Young, C - Myles Turner
Bulls: PG - Kris Dunn, SG - Justin Holiday, SF - Harrison Barnes, PF - Lauri Markkanen, C - Robin Lopez

Injury Report

Pacers: Victor Oladipo - out (sore right knee), Glenn Robinson III - out (left ankle surgery rehabilitation), Edmond Sumner - out (left knee surgery rehabilitation)

Bulls: Zach LaVine - out (left ACL), Cameron Payne - out (right foot)

Last Meeting

December 6, 2017: Indiana trailed by as many as 17 points on Wednesday and by 16 points in the fourth quarter before mounting a late rally to knock off the Bulls, 98-96, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Victor Oladipo's pull-up 3-pointer with 31.1 seconds remaining gave the Pacers their first lead of the night. Oladipo, who had missed a contested shot at the rim to tie the game seconds earlier, stole the ball from Denzel Valentine, raced down the court, and pulled up for the go-ahead basket.

"I was surveying the scene at first, just seeing who was back, how many people were back and nobody stopped me," Oladipo said after the game. "I could have kept going and drove into the defense or pull up for the three, shoot the ball with confidence, and that's what I did."

Oladipo led all scorers with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting (4-of-10 from 3-point range) and pulled down eight rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic had 17 points, while Darren Collison added 14.

Kris Dunn led the Bulls with 18 points, six boards, and six assists. Robin Lopez added 16 points and five rebounds, while Valentine had 15 points and eight boards.

Noteworthy

  • This will be the third meeting of the season between the Pacers and Bulls. The two Central Division rivals meet for the final time in the regular season on Jan. 6 in Indianapolis.
  • Indiana is 86-96 all-time against the Bulls, and just 25-65 in games played in Chicago. The Bulls had won five straight games over the Pacers at the United Center before Indiana's 105-87 win on Nov. 10.
  • Pacers forward Thaddeus Young and injured Bulls guard Zach LaVine were teammates in Minnesota during the 2014-15 season.

Tickets

The Pacers close out 2017 by hosting Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday, Dec. 31 at 5:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »

Broadcast Information TV & Radio Listings »

TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Pat Boylan (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (sideline reporter/host)
Radio: 107.5 FM/AM 1070 The Fan - Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Eddie White (studio host)

Away Game Night Special

Pacers Heathered Two Tone Hat - $12. Game Night Specials can be purchased online the day of each away game from 10:00 AM - Midnight. Order Online »