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Bulls vs. Pacers preview: Bulls try to avoid season sweep by division rival

The Bulls hope to avoid an 0-4 season series against the Pacers when the two teams square off at the United Center on Saturday night.


The Bulls haven't had much luck against the Pacers this year, whether they've found themselves extremely short-handed or on the wrong end of controversial calls (or both!). Chicago will look to avoid going winless against Indiana this year when the Pacers visit the United Center on Saturday night.

The Bulls will be relatively healthy on Saturday, at least compared to a few of the other times these two teams have played this season. If you recall, the last matchup featured a lineup of Teague/Belinelli/Butler/Vlad/Nazr at one point in the second quarter due to the injuries, although that group somehow didn't do half bad.

This time around, the Bulls will only be missing Derrick Rose (sigh), as God has not yet decided it's time for him to return to the court. [Note by JayPatt, 03/23/13 5:38 PM CDT: OR NOT! Noah is out due to the plantar fasciitis acting up again] Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson responded well to finally playing again, so they'll be in the lineup against the Pacers. Their return didn't help much against the Blazers on Thursday, but perhaps things will be different now that the rust has shaken off a bit.

The Pacers will be without power forward David West due to a bad back, which would seem like good news for the Bulls. West has killed the Bulls this season, averaging 23.3 points and 8.3 rebounds on 52.1 percent shooting in three games. However, crazy Tyler Hansbrough has filled in admirably for West the past three games, averaging 18.0 points and 12.3 rebounds. And over that three-game span, the Pacers have won by an average of 22.4 points. The Bulls have handled Hansbrough well this season, so hopefully that will continue.

Elsewhere around the court, the Luol Deng/Paul George matchup will be one to watch, as always. Deng could really use a good game to help boost his confidence, but facing a long athlete like George isn't exactly a good remedy. Lu is shooting just 30.4 percent this year against the Pacers, so I'm not all that confident that he'll rebound from his 2-of-7 outing against the Blazers.

And of course, there's the battle in the middle between Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert (Again, OR NOT!!!). The Pacers' big man has picked up his offensive game a bit in March, averaging 15.0 points on 47.0 percent shooting. But he has struggled a bit in the last five games, shooting just 36.5 percent. That includes a 9-of-26 performance in a loss to the Sixers, which is pretty crazy for a big man.

The Bulls currently trail the Pacers by six games in the Central Division, so a win tonight probably wouldn't mean much in terms of that race. Nevertheless, I REALLY want to win this one, because going 0-4 against those schmucks this year would be really shitty. So I'm hoping the Bulls are able to put together a solid performance and pull one out.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on WGN. For more on the Pacers, check out Indy Cornrows.