Game #23 Preview: Pacers Head to Second City

Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls
Monday, December 13, 2010
8:00 pm EST
United Center
Chicago, Illinois

In the preseason, not many people thought that Chicago’s only real threat to winning the Central Division would be the Pacers. But with the Bucks looking like they have taken a step backwards this season and the Cavs and Pistons both just looking like really bad teams, that’s how it looks on December 13.

Furthermore, when you look at the most important teams statistics (see chart below), the Pacers and Bulls appear to be performing almost identically. In point differential, the Pacers rank 11th in the NBA while the Bulls are 10th. Offensively, the Pacers rank 19th while the Bulls are 20th. Defensively, the Pacers are 8th and have the leagues 2nd best eFG% against and the Bulls are 7th with the 5th best eFG% against.

Just like Jim O’Brien is doing in Conseco, new Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, formerly the architect of the Celtics championship defense, has these guys playing superb defense.

It’s not as even as the numerical picture paints, however.

Chicago was forced to play its first 15 games without marquee offseason acquisition Carlos Boozer. The team has long lacked a consistent interior scorer and that’s what the former Jazz power forward does best. He hasn’t been his old self thus far since returning and playing his way into the system, but the impact has been apparent, with the Bulls having won five straight coming into tonight’s game.

But this team was pretty good even without Booz. Now that he is back, Mark Stein has put the Bulls fourth in his week-seven power rankings based largely on one eye-opening piece of information about how they’ve played against the West.

The Bulls have 11 wins against Western Conference foes, and no other team in the East has more than six. D-Rose is shooting 41.6 percent on 3-pointers, and Boozer is back. Safe bet: Chicago is in the top 10 to stay.

Yeah .. That Derrick Rose kid is pretty good. With averages of 25.1 ppg (on 46.6% shooting), 8.1 apg and 4.3 rpg, Maurice Brooks has the point guard listed third on his current MVP ballot. The fact that Darren Collison recently questioned the Pacers point guard rotation highlights just how much this match-up leans in Chicago’s favor.

Throw in the fact that Joakim Noah is an excellent defender and the league’s third best rebounder and we’re talking about a team on the cusp of the NBA elite. They might only be 14-8, but they are very good and getting better. (Kobe’s not passing the torch just yet, however.)

Hopefully for the Pacers, they can catch them on a night where they still look like they haven’t put it all together yet in what will be the first of four meetings between the squads this season. The fact that Danny Granger is questionable to go with an ankle sprain (last I heard anyway) won’t help.

Pacers vs Bulls By the Numbers

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