[Thanks to Swoove for today's game preview -yfbb]
At some point in the four days between December 21st and December 25th, the Chicago Bulls seemed to have figured something out among themselves. Perhaps John Paxson's speech gave the team something to marinate on. Whatever the case, they have looked like a different team since Friday. They have resembled the try-hard Bulls of yesteryear, and it appears to be something greater than a flash in the pan.
Chicago has played three very competitive games within the past five days with a win in Oklahoma City, a loss in Dallas, and another win at home versus the Raptors. The brightest spot in all three games, however, is the improved play of, and enhanced aggression in Derrick Rose's game. In the three games, Rose shot for a combined 42.8% from three, and 44.1% overall from the field. He finished much better around the rim, and looked to attack more in transition. Even though he has lost a step, Derrick Rose can still be the fastest player on the court at any given moment.
Another bright spot has been the release of the Kraken, er...Bobby Portis. Aside from the inevitable rookie mistakes, he has brought much needed positive energy on the floor. Portis has shown off some nice moves in the post and an unyielding motor that drives him to fight for any and every rebound, offensive or defensive. There is definitely a learning curve, in that Portis has yet to look comfortable on the defensive in, and his high motor does cause him to be reckless and out of control sometimes, but as long as Joakim Noah is out Portis should continue to play more minutes and work through a lot of the bugs.
Across the border the Indiana Pacers will enter the United Center winners of their last two games, the last one at the expense of the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. The Pacers are committed in their transition to utilizing smaller lineups, though they will occasionally start with the traditional two-bigs as they did against the Hawks when forward and center Lavoy Allen and Ian Mahinmi got the starting nod. With an 18-12 record that is good for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Pacers' experiment that features All-Star Paul George at power forward seems to be coming along. However, outside of Monday night's win the Pacers do not have any impressive wins against upper tier teams. Indiana has played rather inconsistently and playing back-to-backs has not done them any favors either, but when push comes to shove they figure out what it takes to win ball games.
According to our neighbors at Indy Cornrows it is likely Jordan Hill will sit out tonight's contest due to a wisdom tooth extraction, so expect to see some of rookie Myles Turner tonight who is returning from a thumb injury suffered back on November 11th against the Boston Celtics. C.J. Miles is also listed as questionable as he continues to nurse a sore lower back. Doug McDermott had an MRI on his right knee on Tuesday according to the Chicago Tribune and he is listed as day-to-day with what the Bulls are calling a knee strain.
Look to see if Derrick Rose continues to attack the rim and keep pressure on the Pacer defense. The spotlight will be shining brighter on Tony Snell as he and Niko Mirotic will be the primary small forwards tonight. The Pacers forced the Hawks into 22 turnovers on Monday, and the Bulls have a propensity to give their opposition extra possessions, so that could mean two games of 20+ forced turnovers for the Pacers.
This is a game the Bulls should get up for--the Pacers are a good team and a division rival. It would be nice for them to put a string of four straight quality games together.
GAME: Chicago Bulls vs Indiana Pacers
TIME: 7:00pm CT
RADIO: WMVP ESPN 1000AM / WRTO 1200