INDIANAPOLIS, IN -- The Indiana Pacers play the Chicago Bulls at 7:00 P.M. Eastern in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is an important game for both teams as they are fighting for upper tier positioning in the Eastern Conference standings. The Pacers currently have a 9-5 record and are third in the East, while the Bulls have a 9-4 record and are second in the East. This game is crucial for the Pacers since they lost the first meeting of the season series. Evening the season series is key for the Pacers so that the Bulls won't hold the tie breaker. Since their 0-3 start to the season, Indiana has gone 9-2 in their past 11 games. Those two losses came against top Eastern Conference teams. The first loss was a 101-97 road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Their second loss during that stretch was a 96-95 road loss to the Chicago Bulls.
The Pacers have been playing the best offense that they have in years. Indiana has scored 123 points in two consecutive games. The Pacers haven't scored at least 123 points in two consecutive games in a single season since the 2010-11 season. Indiana is coming off arguably one of the best perimeter shooting games in NBA history. Indiana made a franchise record 19 3-pointers in their last game. The Pacers shot the highest percentage of any team in history that attempted at least 25 3-pointers in a game on that night as well, they shot 73.1 percent on the night. As the Pacers improve their execution from mid-range and in the paint, their offense could turn into a dangerous weapon. Improvement in those areas should happen over time as the team improves their floor spacing, timing of off-ball movement, use of on/off-ball screens, and the execution of their half-court sets.
Indiana's last game, which was against the Washington Wizards, saw the Pacers produce a sensational all-around offensive performance. The Pacers shot 44-80 (55%) from the field, 19-26 (73.1 percent) from the perimeter, 25-54 (46.3 percent) on 2-point field goal attempts, and 16-23 (69.6 percent) from the free throw line. What can be learned from this last game was that poor ball control will keep teams in games even when you are shooting the lights out. Indiana had 20 turnovers and that led to 25 points off turnovers for the Wizards. Indiana did a great job of rebounding, forcing turnovers, and contesting shots in addition to their fantastic shooting, but they simply didn't control the ball well.
Myles Turner is the only injury to report for the Pacers. Turner remains out as he recovers from the surgery that he had to repair the chip fracture in his left thumb. Indiana is projected to use the following starting lineup: George Hill, Monta Ellis, Paul George, C.J. Miles, and Ian Mahinmi. Since the only injury for the Pacers is Turner's thumb injury, their second unit is projected to be: Rodney Stuckey, Glenn Robinson, Chase Budinger, Lavoy Allen, and Jordan Hill. This is good news because the Pacers didn't have Hill, Stuckey, or Turner the first time they played the Bulls, so now they have the primary ball handlers in both the first and second units for this game.
Chicago has a few injuries to report. Mike Dunleavy is out with a back injury and Aaron Brooks is out with a hamstring injury. Chicago is projected to use the following as their starting lineup: Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Nikola Mirotic, and Pau Gasol. Their second unit is projected to be: Kirk Hinrich, E'Twaun Moore, Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah. Chicago has switched it up a few times and has sometimes starting McDermott in place of Snell at small forward. Also, there have been times where Noah starts at center and Gasol moves to power forward, then Mirotic comes off the bench. So changes could happen to these projections.
The key to victory suggested by the numbers for the Pacers appears to be scoring at least 100 points. Indiana has a 6-1 record this season when they score at least 100 points, also, Chicago has an 0-3 record when they allow their opponent to score at least 100 points. Both the Bulls and Pacers have had an elite level of defense so far this season. So taking care of the basketball and taking quality shots will be important Friday night. The Pacers can't attack this Bulls defense just straight up with isolation offense, so using half-court sets to get open shots will be important. If the Pacers can execute their half-court sets, take care of the ball, and make quality defensive rotations, then they should be fine. Indiana's execution of their defensive rotation is important so that they can effectively contest Chicago's shot attempts and get quality rebounding position to keep the Bulls good rebounders off the glass. In a defensive struggle between two elite teams, making sure to get as many possessions as possible is important because shooting a high quality percentage is unlikely.
Paul George and Jimmy Butler are both having fantastic seasons. For both teams, it all starts with the play of their stars. Paul George has averaged 25.9 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.1 blocks this season while shooting 45.8 percent from the field, 45.7 percent from the perimeter, 45.9 percent from two-point range, and 84.4 percent from the free throw line. Jimmy Butler has averaged 21.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.1 steals, and 0.7 blocks this season. Butler has shot 45.9 percent from the field, 40.8 percent from the perimeter, 47.6 percent from two-point range, and 78.7 percent from the free throw line. Both players are easily having All-Star quality seasons to start the 2015-16 season.
Last game against the Bulls, the Pacers lost by a score of 96-95 in Chicago. George had 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists to lead the Pacers in this game. George arguably got fouled on a last second mid-range shot attempt, but there was no call by the officials. It was a tough loss for the Pacers, but they will have a chance to avenge this loss tonight. Monta Ellis and C.J. Miles gave George quality support in this game in the absence of George Hill and Rodney Stuckey, Ellis had 20 points and Miles had 19. Derrick Rose led the way for Chicago with 23 points and 6 assists, while Butler also had 17 points.
This Pacers game can be viewed on Fox Sports Indiana and NBA League Pass for telivision viewers. For radio listeners, there is a broadcast on 93.5 FM and 1070 AM in the Indianapolis area.