[Thanks to Greg for today's game preview -yfbb]
After a solid if uninspired win against the Washington Generals...er...Philadelphia 76ers, the Bulls go back to facing NBA competition in their game tonight against the Pacers. In their second match up in four days, Chicago is ready for retribution after barely losing to Indiana in their last meeting March 21st. In what ended as a twelve point loss to their regional rivals, Coach Thibs' scrappy rabble were out hustled through the second half of their game. Tonight we can expect "Jo-No and the crew" (good name for a 90s rap group) to correct that and come out ready for a fight to even the series. Currently Indiana is up 2-1 on Chicago, so a win tonight would send a thundering message to the rest of the league as we wind down towards the playoffs. Indiana out rebounded the Bulls 51-36 in the last game, so I'm sure Thibs' has spent the last few days putting the team through punishing rebounding drills in practice.
I have to admit that when D-Rose went down and Deng was traded I lost faith in our mighty No-ah-Bulls and decided Indiana would be my team for the East. Despite the historic rivalry and epic Miller-Jordan duels, Indiana is certainly more in line with the Bulls mentality than Miami will ever be. Call it a Midwestern sensibility. So as the ancient Sanskrit saying goes, "The enemy of mine enemy is my friend," and I've rooted for Indiana to be our nation's king slayers for the eastern conference. That said, the Bulls have recently outperformed their expectations and shown the genius that lies in Thibodeau's system. They'e been tough and resilient, and that's not exactly what one would say about Indiana. Despite their East leading 51-19 record, the Pacers have shown the kinks in their armor and it's clear that in a seven game series they can be out hustled and out scored. Indiana's offense has had a few glaring issues: they're averaging around 15.3 turnovers a game which is something that will be easily exploited by come playoff time. They're 21st in PPG which is kind of pathetic for the caliber of team they have on paper. Memphis just held them to a season low 71 points Saturday so there's no reason to fear Indiana anymore as there was at the beginning of the season. The Bulls offense isn't anything to write mom about either, so this game should come down to defense. Given that Indiana is 1st and Chicago is 2nd in Points Allowed, it'll really just come down to defensive stops and toughness. It's a home game tonight and Indiana should be disheartened after their last loss which I predict Noah will capitalize on, so I'm giving Chicago the slight edge.
Prediction: Indiana 90 - BULLS 95
Long gone are the days we thought Paul George would be third runner up for MVP. As a fantasy basketball owner who picked him with my first pick, I can tell you he's been a steady disappointment as the season has progressed. (Don't cry for me though Argentina, I also picked Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin in my next rounds!) In his last three games George scored 17, 10, and 8 points, far from the superstar caliber numbers people have been expecting of him this season. Still one of the best two way players in the league, George's youth and inexperience has come out and it looks like maybe a summer at "Lebron's Camp for the Underprivileged Professional Basketball Players" might be helpful to his game. For the Pacers to be the best George needs to step up his numbers to where they were near the beginning of the season. Let's just hope he doesn't do that tonight!