Things are going very well for the Indiana Pacers, tied for second in the Eastern Conference and winning six of their last seven games. The Chicago Bulls are having their ups and downs, currently on the positive side of the curve, hoping to climb a bit higher in the position battle for the postseason.
Two teams that pride themselves on playing defense, but the Bulls simply don’t have the attacking talent the Pacers do, which is saying quite a lot. Waiting all season for Derrick Rose to return, it seems that only in the last few games comes this sort of realization that the former MVP isn’t coming back, and even if he is, he won’t manage to do much. Joakim Noah responded with two consecutive game of rare numbers, including 23 points, 21 rebounds and a career-high 11 blocks against Philadelphia on Thursday.
The Bulls have now won their last two games, thanks to the good defense which puts them in the top 3 in the NBA defensively, and the hustle combined with a little bit of offensive brilliance from Carlos Boozer, who has scored at least 20 points in Chicago’s last three games.
The Pacers have their previous meeting with the Bulls still in mind, winning 111-101 in what turned out to be much more than an ugly slug-fest a lot of people were expecting. Paul George did extremely well in the two games against the Bulls this season, both of them wins, averaging 27.5 points per game in his breakout season.
However, the key to the success of the Pacers will be Roy Hibbert, who missed the game in the loss to the Clippers but was there to provide 18 points in the following win against Toronto. The Pacers’ defensive unity and strength relies on Hibbert clogging up the paint and keeping teams guessing and thinking where to penetrate from. A healthy Hibbert will deny the Bulls all those second-chance points they rely on so much.
Prediction – It’s funny, but the most important player on Chicago is the one playing point guard, Kirk Hinrich. If he manages to have a decent game, which means finding himself free to take open 3’s while Luol Deng, Noah and Boozer do the game managing without many mistakes, the Bulls have a shot of beating the Pacers for the first time this season.