Indiana Pacers at the Chicago Bulls Preview
Two Central division rivals will battle it out on Friday night as the Pacers will visit the Bulls at the United Center in Chicago. These two squads are in different states as the Pacers march toward the playoffs while Chicago is trending towards the lottery. Indiana is trying to continue their climb up the Eastern Conference standings where they currently sit in 5th with a record of 37-25. Chicago on the other hand sits in 11th with a woeful record of 21-41.
Time: 7 PM CST
Arena: United Center, Chicago, IL
Channel: NBC Sports Chicago, Fox Sports Indiana
Pacers: Victor Oladipo (Doubtful), Malcolm Brogdon (Out), Jeremy Lamb (Out)
Bulls: Zach LaVine (Doubtful), Kris Dunn (Out), Chandler Hutchison (Out), Luke Kornet (Out)
Indiana Pacers Lineup
The Pacers currently sit comfortably with the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference and are nearly a lock for the postseason. It has been a productive season for them despite dealing with injuries constantly throughout the year. They will have to battle through injuries once again with Oladipo most likely sitting out a second straight game and Brogdon sidelined after leaving Wednesday’s game with a hip issue.
Indiana’s tough 119-110 loss to the Bucks put an end to a 4-game win streak of the Pacers. With Brogdon and Oladipo unavailable the Pacers had to deal with a depleted back court as they will once again on Friday. T.J. McConnell stepped up in their absences putting up 14 points and 6 assists in 30 minutes off the bench. Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Warren, and Doug McDermott all added 15+ points but it wasn’t enough to get past the NBA leading Bucks Sabonis showed why he was deserving of his All-Star nod with a near triple-double notching 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists.
A key to the Pacers success all year long has been their dominance in the paint. Led by Sabonis they should be able to dominant the interior against a Bulls team that allows the 3rd highest opponent field goal percentage in the NBA (55.5%). Indiana will also play their efficient style which has allowed them to rank 7th in the NBA in assists while only turning the ball over 13 times per game, which is 5th in the league.
Chicago Bulls Starting Lineup
The Bulls were able to pull off a momentum creating win against the Mavericks Monday but lost a disappointing contest in Minnesota two days later, failing to capitalize on that momentum. It has been a fairly disastrous season in Chicago which has led to rumors being to swirl about long overdue front office and coaching changes.
Chicago wasn’t able to take advantage of a struggling Minnesota team that was without its star Karl-Anthony Towns. They were once again without Zach LaVine but got a boost from Lauri Markkanen’s return, who provided 13 points in only 21 minutes. The Bulls have now recently gotten back the injured Wendell Carter, Otto Porter, and Markkanen. All three will be on minutes restriction’s but will give them much needed help in LaVine’s absence. Porter and Carter didn’t play up to par against Minnesota, but their play should bounce back as the minutes increase.
Coby White did his best to hold of the Timberwolves giving Chicago 26 points and 6 assists off the bench. White is now averaging 28 points over his last 6 games and has become a key cog in the Bulls offense. The Bulls should look to push the pace against an Indiana team that ranks 24th in that metric. This will play an even bigger role if Chicago can force turnovers but that should be tough against a team that ranks top-5 in limiting turnovers. Chicago does notch the most steals per game in the NBA so it will be interesting to see how the turnover battle end up.
Key Player Matchup
Domantas Sabonis vs Lauri Markkanen
This should be a pivotal matchup in this contest despite Markkanen being on a minutes restriction. It has been a tough year development wise for Markkanen, but it will go a long way if he can provide a scoring boost for the LaVine-less Bulls. Sabonis’ importance to Indiana is clear and they will rely on his presence without their two backcourt studs.
This should be an opportunity for Sabonis to have a big game and he is worth the price in my opinion. Some more value-based options are available in this game too with T.J. McConnell and Tomas Satoransky slated for big minutes. Lastly, I like the idea of riding the hot hand with Coby White who I believe will put up another good scoring outing.
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