Indiana Pacers (8-9)
Chicago Bulls (8-7)
What a way to end this small road trip than with a battle against Central Division leading, Chicago Bulls. This is the game that I’ve had circled on my calendar since the Pacers schedule was announced. I expect quite a fight tonight, and with the way both teams play defense, points might be at a premium.
We all know that both teams are missing key pieces with the Bulls missing Derrick Rose and the Pacers missing Danny Granger. The Pacers might be able to exploit that match up at point guard with George Hill as Kirk Hinrich looks to slow down Hill. Hill and David West have been the most consistent players for the Pacers, so I expect both men to step up tonight as even though it’s just a December game, this one could mean something.
Last season saw these teams battle it out with the season series getting split. The Pacers took one in Chicago and the Bulls came back to beat the Pacers up there by twenty. The Pacers don’t want a loss like that when they are trying to finally get something going for the season. It’s been in this figure it out mode for the first part of the season, but it’s time to turn that corner. No more win a game, lose a game. But more so, win some games in a row, then if a loss happens, at least they would be above .500 and right near the top of the Central Division.
I look at this Bulls-Pacers match up as a budding rivalry. Last season, with the win in Chicago, the Pacers got called out for “celebrating too much” by Derrick Rose. While Rose won’t be out there playing, the Bulls still have Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, who can get feisty with David West and Roy Hibbert in the post. This would be a great game for Hibbert to come alive and put a great game together, like we have seen before.
But I am most interested in seeing how Paul George responds after going scoreless on Saturday night against the Warriors. He should be able to take advantage against Luol Deng at the small forward position. I want to see him being aggressive and looking for that open shot to the basket. Paul George is the guy that Pacer fans want to have that breakout year, and what better game to come out for than this one in Chicago. There should be a great atmosphere, and this game could feel like a playoff battle. I’m calling for the Pacers to win a close game possibly within 6 or less points. But what I would love to see is a Pacer rout. Wishful thinking, but we know this Pacers team can get it going if they put their best game out there!