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Bulls vs. Pacers Game Preview and open thread

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Victor Oladipo is probably back

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

[Game previews open for the rest of this month if you’d like to sign up -yfbb]

Chicago Bulls (14-25) at Indiana Pacers (19-19)

6 p.m., WGN

Injury Report:

Victor Oladipo is a game-time decision with a sore right knee. He was able to practice for the first time in ten days on Thursday and also practiced Friday. He’s optimistic that he will be able to go tonight.

Bojan Bogdanovic is questionable for the game tonight with an ankle issue. Glenn Robinson III and Edmond Sumner continue to sit with long-term injuries.

Preview:

The Bulls didn’t have an answer for rising star Victor Oladipo in the two games he’s been healthy versus the Bulls this season.

In those two games (both wins for the Pacers), the Indiana University product has averaged 26 points on 52.5 percent from the field, seven rebounds, and four assists. He led both games in scoring.

On Dec. 29, Oladipo sat with a knee injury, and despite 30 points from Darren Collison, the Bulls won 119-107 behind 32 and 28 points from Lauri Markkanen and Nikola Mirotic respectively. But with Oladipo likely back, Justin Holiday will continue his string of brutal defensive assignments (he’s matched up against Bradley Beal, C.J. McCollum, and DeMar DeRozan since New Year’s Eve).

The Chicago Bulls snapped a three-game skid with a 127-124 win last night against the Dallas Mavericks that became dicey late because the Bulls flat out forgot how to inbound the ball. Markkanen is back on track. He dropped 16 points on 6-for-9 from the field last night, and has averaged 20 points on 55.2 percent from the field (45.7 percent from 3-point land) in the last five games. After LeBron James complimented him earlier in the season, Markkanen garnered praise from another NBA legend last night.

The Pacers are hovering at .500 and are in the midst of an ugly five-game winning streak where they’ve lost three of those games by 20+ points. Oladipo was unavailable for four of those games, so that certainly contributed to the skid.

The Pacers are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, so defending the arc regardless of Oladipo’s availability is paramount for the Bulls. Indiana is third in 3-point field goal percentage in the NBA (38.3 percent) although they don’t maximize this advantage and only attempt 25 3-point field goals per game which is 26th-highest in the NBA. Four Pacers (Oladipo, Collison, Bogdanovic, and Cory Joseph) all average over 38 percent from distance on at least two attempts per game.

Elsewhere, legendary LeBron-troll Lance Stephenson has averaged 8.9 points on inefficient shooting in his age 27 season. Myles Turner remains a tank inside as he continues to look like one of the biggest steals of the 2015 draft. Domantas Sabonis is a nice young player for the Pacers, and has averaged 12.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in his age 21 season.

The game is at 6 p.m., so you can get your Bulls fix in early and still have time to do something else with your Saturday night. Everybody wins.