Feb 29, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (right) dunks against San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (left) during the second half at the AT

Game Preview: Indiana Pacers @ Chicago Bulls

Indiana (23-12, won last six) @ Chicago (31-8, won last six)

Key Stats

Chicago

* 97.69 points per game (7th in the NBA) vs. 88.26 points allowed per game (2nd)

* 46.1% FG (4th) vs. 42.4% FG allowed (4th)

* 45.62 rpg (2nd) vs. 40.33 rebounds allowed (4th)

*23.26 apg (1st) vs. 14.03 TO pg (4th)

Indiana

* 95.89 ppg (13th) vs. 91.89 points allowed (8th)

* 43% FG (24th) vs. 42.6% FG allowed (7th)

* 44.49 rppg (3rd) vs. 42.4 rebounds allowed (20th)

* 18.06 appg (27th) vs. 14.74 TO pg (13th)

Position-by-position Matchups

PG-Darren Collison vs. Derrick Rose

SG-Paul George vs. Richard Hamilton

SF-Danny Granger vs. Luol Deng

PF-David West vs. Carlos Boozer

C-Roy Hibbert vs. Joakim Noah

Key Reserves

Chicago-C.J. Watson, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, Kyle Korver

Indiana-Tyler Hansbrough, A.J. Price, Dahntay Jones, George Hill, Jeff Foster

Injuries of note

Chicago-None

Indiana-Jeff Foster (back, day to day)

Breakdown:

Well, this is the matchup Pacers fans, and apparently Derrick Rose, has been waiting for. After the Pacers won in dramatic fashion at the United Center on January 25, overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit, the Bulls (particularly Derrick Rose) were not happy with the way the Pacers celebrated. And if Indiana was hoping the Bulls had forgotten, they can think again. Starting center Joakim Noah, who seems to epitomize the double standard, had this to say regarding the much anticipated re-match with Indiana:
“When people talk about celebration, I just feel like, ‘You’re not going to out-celebrate me.’ Roy Hibbert cannot out-celebrate me. So if they want to see some celebration when we win, I can show them some celebration. I know how to celebrate.”
Yeah. Whatever.
While both teams will certainly have chips on their respective shoulders, and both will come hard, Chicago is clearly better. On paper, the Bulls are the most complete team in the NBA. And when Derrick Rose is even 75% healthy, not to mention extra-motivated, beating the Bulls becomes much more easier said than done, especially in Chicago, where they have lost just twice (to Indiana in the aforementioned game, and to New Jersey on February 18 without Rose). Though it’s too much to say Indiana has the Bulls’ number, they’ve certainly been more than competitive vs. Chicago recently, and the matchup has finally evolved into somewhat of a rivalry. Counting the playoffs, the Bulls have outscored the Pacers by just 4.5 points over the last 8 games. On the year Chicago is outscoring opponents by over twice that, and over the last six games (all Chicago wins) the Bulls have outscored opponents by an average of 11.2 ppg. So for whatever reason, Indiana seems to match up well against Chicago, and that could be a problem for the Bulls tonight.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, the toughness and aggressiveness that has kept them in games vs. teams like Chicago will be tested tonight, as Indiana will almost certainly play without “x-factor” type, Jeff Foster, who suffered a recent set back regarding his back injury, and according to Yahoo!, has Indiana pursuing New Orleans center Chris Kaman again. Still, it would be surprising if the Pacers can’t at least keep this game close with frustrating defense and a rebounding prowess that almost matches up to that of Chicago’s. While both teams will step up their games, Indiana has a chance if they can somehow contain Rose, but that’s a tall order, to say the least.

Prediction: Bulls 96, Indiana 89

The Bulls won’t overlook Indiana this time, and if they can get a big lead by halftime, expect them to close the deal. It will be a tough couple of weeks for Indiana, as the Pacers play 8 games vs. winning teams over the next 13 days. It’s crucial that the Pacers set the tone for the week tonight, and build confidence headed into the most brutal scheduling stretch of the season. But it’s not imperative, nor should it be expected, that they can shock one of the league’s most elite teams, playing pissed off at home.

Fantasy Outlook:

Your regulars are a go for Chicago, especially Joakim Noah who has really turned into a rebounding beast over the past six weeks. Since January 13 he’s had double-figure rebounds in all but 7 games, and has pulled down six or more offensive rebounds a freakish six times. He has double-doubles in four of his past five games, including a triple-double February 22. Carlos Boozer seems to regularly shrink vs. Indiana, but that’s not enough reason to bench him. All the other Bulls you would normally start, you should in this game.

Same story for Indiana. If Roy Hibbert can stay out of foul trouble, he could see extended time with Jeff Foster likely out. Tyler Hansbrough has had some good games against Chicago, but he’s a risky start if you have better options. Paul George has also put up some decent defensive numbers vs. Derrick Rose, including some dramatic playoff blocks last year. All in all though, the Bulls are so good defensively that you should temper statistical expectations for all of your regular Pacers.

Lucas Klipsch celebrates too much. Why, what’s up? Follow him on Twitter @LukeNukem317

comments powered by Disqus