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Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers Game Preview, Injury Report, and Open Thread

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Pacers are elite at being quietly good

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (18-46) at Indiana Pacers (41-23)

6:00 p.m., WGN

Injury Report:

Domantas Sabonis didn’t practice with the team on Monday and won’t play tonight. He’s in the thick of the race for Sixth Man of the Year, so this is a significant loss for the Pacers.

For the Bulls, Otto Porter is back from his ‘load management’ day off on Sunday. The Bulls have won the last 5 games with Porter in the lineup.

Preview:

The Indiana Pacers are 41-23 and third in the East?! That led to a double take when I looked at it. Nate McMillan for Coach of the Year anyone?

Granted, the record hasn’t been as gaudy since Pacers star Victor Oladipo went down with a season-ending injury on Jan. 23. Indiana is 9-8 since that faithful night, just managing to stay afloat which isn’t a catastrophic state of existence in a top-heavy-with-no-depth Eastern Conference. Last season, the Pacers were 0-7 in games that Oladipo missed so they’ve figured something out in that department.

The Pacers are half a game up on the Philadelphia 76ers with the Boston Celtics 2.5 games behind. If the playoffs started tomorrow, the Pacers would match up against the .500 Detroit Pistons, presenting the franchise with a golden opportunity to advance past the first round for the first time since 2014 even in spite of Oladipo’s injury.

The Pacers have seven players who average 10 or more points per game this season led by forward Bojan Bogdanovic who puts up 17.5 points per game. Since Oladipo went out with his injury, Bogdanovic’s scoring output has risen to 21.8 points per game on 51.5/39.2/81.4 shooting splits.

The thing that the Pacers do better than just about everybody else in the league is defend. Their 105.1 defensive rating is the second best in the association and they’ve seen just a slight drop in this metric since Oladipo (All-Defensive First Team last season) went down with injury (108.2 defensive rating in 18 games including the one that Oladipo got hurt in).

Our old friend Doug McDermott has carved out a role for himself in Indiana. He only plays 17.1 minutes per game but has shot the ball at a 40.4 percent clip from 3-point land on nearly three attempts per game. He’s a career 40.3 percent 3-point shooter which is higher than I probably would have guessed.

Franchise comparison:

Since 2010, the Pacers have quietly epitomized consistency. They’ve reached the playoffs in seven of the last eight seasons [they finished ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 38-44 record the one year they didn’t make the playoffs in that stretch]. The fantastic return they received for Paul George [Sabonis and Oladipo] allowed them to retool rather than rebuild after trading their superstar. They’ve done all this while picking in the lottery twice, although they’ve made the most of the sparse opportunities by selecting George and Myles Turner with those picks.

Meanwhile, 184.1 miles northwest, this franchise owner’s son is clamoring that the Bulls brass have done a great job overseeing the Bulls rebuild. They have won five of their last seven games, so they may feel this is decent timing.

Speaking of the executives, Gar Forman was at the DePaul versus St. John’s game on Sunday. He probably came to scout St. John’s point guard Shamorie Ponds. Instead, Blue Demon guard Max Strus treated him to a 43 point on 14-for-22 from the field performance. That warrants at least a Summer League invite, right?