NBA Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, March 23rd
(All times Eastern)
Indiana Pacers (43-26) at Chicago Bulls (36-31), 8 p.m.
(Sports Network) - If the Chicago Bulls have any thoughts about winning the
Central Division, Saturday night's home game against the Indiana Pacers is a
The Bulls trail Indiana by six games in the Central. Chicago is safely in
the playoff picture now, but there is positioning in question. The Bulls own
the sixth spot, but are only a half-game ahead of the Boston Celtics.
Conversely, Chicago is just a game behind the Atlanta Hawks for fifth.
The Pacers are in the playoffs, having already clinched their spot. They have
no chance of catching the historically great Miami Heat, but Indy is just a
game ahead of the New York Knicks for second in the Eastern Conference.
The Pacers are playing well and collected their third straight victory on
Friday night when they demolished Central Division rivals, the Milwaukee
At home, the Pacers jumped all over the Bucks in the third quarter, winning
the frame, 28-11. That proved to be enough separation and Indiana won going
"Heck of a win for our guys, led by a dominant defensive third quarter where
we held them to about five points in the quarter until the final minute I
think," said head coach Frank Vogel.
David West missed his third straight game with a back injury and his
availability for Saturday night is unknown, although he's not expected to
Tyler Hansbrough started in West's place and amassed 22 points and 12
rebounds. He is averaging 18.0 ppg during the time West has been sidelined.
"Maybe because he's playing with the starters, I'm not totally sure," Vogel
said of Hansbrough's recent play. "Some guys are just more comfortable
starting and they get in a better rhythm of the game. Whatever it is, I'm glad
it's working out for Tyler and for us."
Paul George (20), Roy Hibbert (11), D.J. Augustin (10), Jeff Pendergraph (10)
and Ian Mahinmi (10) all scored in double figures.
The Bulls just aren't playing good basketball right now. They've lost two in a
row, four of five and six of eight. The two most recent losses were at home to
the Denver Nuggets, who are on fire right now, and the Portland Trail Blazers,
who are not.
Against Portland on Thursday, the Bulls fell behind by 15 at the half, then
got clobbered again in the third quarter, 28-16. It all added up to a 99-89
"It's disappointing, it's really disappointing," Joakim Noah said. "It's
tough. We're not playing great right now, disappointing. It's the final
stretch and we're not getting it done. We've got to find a way."
Noah led the Bulls with 18 points and Carlos Boozer had a double-double with
16 points and 11 rebounds. Taj Gibson, who, along with Kirk Hinrich, returned
after long stints away with injury, scored 14 off the bench and Jimmy Butler
chipped in 12 in a reserve role.
The Pacers have won the first three this season against the Bulls. Indiana is
2-8 in its last 10 in Chicago, but one of those victories came this season.
03/23 10:33:58 ET