The Bulls (31-8) look to push their current winning streak to seven games tonight, against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers (23-12) are also on a tear lately, winning six in a row after a four game skid.
This is the second of a three games in which these teams will face off, in a rivalry that budded in last year’s playoffs. With Darren Collison, George Hill, Roy Hibbert, Paul George and Tyler Hansbrough, the Pacers are a strong young team with veteran leadership from Danny Granger and David West.
The Pacers gave the Bulls some trouble in their last meeting and won 95-90. After the game several Bulls noted that some Pacer players were celebrating as if they had won the Championship.
“I’ll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game. I can’t wait to play them again.” Derrick Rose said to EspnChicago.com reporters after the game in January.
The projected starters are as follows.
|PG||D. Collison 11.5||D. Rose 22.8|
|SG||P. George 12.0||R. Hamilton 12.1|
|SF||D. Granger 18.3||L. Deng 15.6|
|PF||D. West 12.4||C. Boozer 15.4|
|C||R. Hibbert 13.5||J. Noah 9.6|
The Bulls will certainly look to put away the Pacers in this one and prove that a regular season loss was not as significant as the Pacers made it seem. The celebration added a significant amount of fuel to Derrick Rose’s fire, so watch for the MVP to make it his job to dismantle the above average Pacer defense.
Joakim Noah, who has completely caught fire as of late, and Roy Hibbert competed fiercely in the last matchup so expect a lot of energy from the two big guys. Rebounding and getting into the paint will be conducive to a victory tonight.
Role players will be pivotal in tonight’s game so Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, and Richard Hamilton will have to be productive to balance things out on the offense. Deng did not play in the first meeting this season, so I expect he will try to make his presence felt on both sides of the court. The Bulls will need contribution from the Bench Mob in order to keep the pressure on while the starters get some rest.
The Pacers are a scrappy yet talented team that can potentially challenge first tier teams in the playoffs. Ultimately, Derrick Rose will come up with a huge game, but expect a playoff type atmosphere between the Central-Division rivals tonight.