FanPost

2010-11 Game Preview #23: Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

[Thanks to snely for today's game preview. Game is at 7, locally on The U, and nationally on NBATV -ed.]

Reviewing the schedule prior to the start of the season, this game stuck out to me as the potential turning point in the season.  Given the team missing Boozer and what turned out to be the NBA's most difficult schedule, I would have been happy with the Bulls right at .500.  With Saturday's T'Wolves game having been the second of back to back, this is when I really expected the wins to start piling up. 

The Pacers have struggled to be even mediocre seemingly since the Malice in the Palace.  This year looked to be no different.  Standing at 11-11 on a strength of schedule (SoS) of .484, it seems mediocre is what they still are. However, shocking wins over the Heat and Lakers started to draw national attention to the team.   With the benefit of hindsight, we can see those wins aren't quite as impressive as we thought they were.  The Heat were in midst of a slide that resulted in internal turmoil and external cries of failure.  The Lakers have been in a bit of a slump of their own.  Don't get me wrong, those are still two nice road wins to have.

Since that Lakers game, the Pacers have gone 3-4, with their wins coming over dregs of the league Sacramento, Toronto, and Charlotte.  Their losses have come against Utah, Phoenix, Milwaukee, and Atlanta.  They are hardly building an impressive resume to this point.  Just look at the numbers they've put up compared to the Bulls.  At first glance, the teams seem pretty equal.  When you take into account SoS, though, the Pacers come out looking worse.  The Bulls come out looking even better when you consider they have played against primarily the best offenses in the NBA all season.  They have played 11 games against 7 teams currently with top 10 offenses.  In other words, half their games have come against some of the best offenses in the NBA and they still have a top 10 defensive rating.   

The Bulls, then, should appear to be clear favorites.  The team has won five straight and finally seems to be gelling on both sides of the court.  The defense has been stellar and everyone seems to be getting used to having Boozer around on the offensive end.  The NBA, though, is a league of match ups.  The Pacers, I'm afraid, pose a serious match up problem in the presence of Roy Hibbert.                            

The 7'2", 278 lb. Center has come into his own in this, his third season.  Having spent his first two seasons struggling to get consistent minutes, he showed up this year in better shape and continued to cut down his fouling (7.7 PF/36 min his rookie season to 4.0 this year).  He has developed into a fantastic passer from both the high and low posts as the Pacers run much of their offense through him. 

Players of that girth have given Joakim Noah massive problems throughout his career.  While Noah has obviously bulked up the last couple years, we are less than 2 weeks away from having seen Dwight Howard shut him out on the boards.  Hibbert is not good enough to dominate to that degree.  Still, it will bear watching how Noah deals with him.  I think the best option is to let Noah pick his spots and attack him on the offensive end.  We've seen him struggle lately converting on driving lay ups.  However, I'd like to see him attempt to drive on Hibbert and draw some fouls.  If Noah can get him sent to the bench or otherwise keep him in check, the Bulls should be well on their way to consecutive win number 6.  If Hibbert is able to push Noah around, this could be closer than we'd like.  

Breakdown (Rankings as of 12/12/10).  Stats from basketball-reference.com


Bulls

Pacers

Off Rtg

105.0 (t19)

105.0 (t19)

Def Rtg

102.3 (7)

102.6 (8)

Pace

93.5 (11)

94.5 (8)

eFG%

49.5% (19)

50.4% (11)

TOV%

14.4% (23)

14.6% (25)

ORB%

29.4% (6)

22.5% (27)

FT/FGA

.220 (24)

.209 (29)

Opp eFG%

47.6% (5)

46.2% (2)

Opp TOV%

14.9% (6)

13.0% (24)

DRB%

74.7% (13)

74.1% (17)

FT/FGA

.236 (17)

.261 (23)


Blogging with the enemy:  Indy Cornrows 

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