NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, March 21st (All times Eastern)
Chicago Bulls (38-30) at Indiana Pacers (50-18), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference jump it up Friday night when the Indiana Pacers welcome the Chicago Bulls to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Pacers are the East's best team by three games over the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. The Bulls are 12 games behind the Pacers in the Central Division, but trail the third-place Toronto Raptors by only a half- game.
The Pacers had a four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night when a visit to Madison Square Garden went sour. The New York Knicks, empowered by Phil Jackson's first game appearance as team president, defeated Indiana, 92-86.
Indiana was led by 21 from Lance Stephenson and 20 from Roy Hibbert. All-Star Paul George finished with 17, but went 4-for-17 from the field.
The Pacers shot just 42.5 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Perhaps more troubling was that the Pacers had only 12 assists on 31 made field goals, including just two in the first half.
"Tonight was definitely a lot of one-on-one," said Stephenson. "We only had two assists in the first half. That's not Pacers basketball. We play together as a unit. I understand we were trying to set screens and they were going under but we still have to play together, make the right play and make sure everybody is happy on the floor."
The Bulls atoned for a home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday with an eight-point victory in Philadelphia over the hapless 76ers. Chicago walked off with a 102-94 to hand the Sixers their 22nd consecutive loss.
Chicago had a tough time of it with a valiant Sixers team. Philly got within four in the fourth, but Tony Wroten barely missed a layup on the rim, and Jimmy Butler made two free throws to essentially seal the victory.
"They play tough. They don't go away," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "They keep coming."
D.J. Augustin scored 20 off the bench, hitting a couple of key 3-pointers down the stretch. Taj Gibson added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Chicago -- also off the bench -- and Butler scored 16.
Mike Dunleavy added 15 points, while Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer both registered double-doubles. Noah had 14 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Boozer finished with 12 points and 11 boards.
The Bulls, who shot over 50 percent from long range against the Sixers, will play the Sixers, Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers back in the Windy City after Friday night.
The Pacers and Bulls have split two matchups this season with the home team successfully defending its court. Indiana is 4-1 in its last five as the host in this series.
03/21 10:23:19 ET