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Bulls vs. Pacers game preview and thread: AK’s evaluation stretch, game 4 of 28

someone has to win, but does anyone want to?

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The last time that the Indiana Pacers squared off against our Chicago Bulls, the Pacers were able to end a seven-game losing streak, thanks to (stop me if you’ve heard this before) the Bulls coughing up a double-digit second half lead. Now, Indy — the 12th seed in the East at 25-34 — is on a five-game losing streak, and looking for a little luck in the Windy City. Its competition tonight, the 11th-seeded Bulls (just two games clear of the Pacers at 26-31) are in the midst of their own four-game losing streak.

When Chicago last fell to Indiana, there was (slight) optimism that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley would pick a direction in which to steer the Bulls at the trade deadline. Instead, they did exactly zilch. And the team’s remaining players have responded to their front office’s inaction by losing every game since. They are broken, miserable, and checked out.

The Bulls’ lone All-Star, DeMar DeRozan, has been battling a right quadricep strain, and will miss tonight’s action. Chicago is hopeful to have him back Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks (currently riding high on an 11-game win streak, which must be nice), on the second night of a back-to-back — a game that the Bulls seem almost doomed to lose regardless of who suits up.

Now that we know we are doomed to watch this middling club as the clock winds down on their season (and maybe, just maybe, our deeply disappointing and ill-fitting “Big Three of DDR, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic), we can really take stock of all this team’s deficiencies. Chicago has a weirdly well-ranked defense (7th in the NBA!) that, beyond Alex Caruso, just does not pass the actual eye test. Non-Caruso Bulls struggle to contain opposing perimeter players or anyone around the rim. And Indiana has a high-octane three-man backcourt rotation, in Haliburton and rookies Aaron Nesmith and Bennedict Mathurin.

While Chicago is a middle-of-the-pack three-point shooting team (35.8%), the Bulls just don’t take a lot of triples. At 28.6 three-point attempts a night, The Bull are the only club in the entire NBA that doesn’t shoot at least 30 treys. The Pacers take 38.1.

Much like it enjoys to do during games, Chicago seems determined to collapse down the stretch of 2022-23, and I think is in danger of missing the play-in tournament. On paper, a home game against an Indiana team that has struggled to win much since the Pacers’ All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton was first shelved for a while this year (he’s back now, but it hasn’t helped much) seems like a “gimme,” an easy W ahead of a Bucks slaughter. But this Bulls team — especially without its best player — is just too erratic to be trusted.

Injury Report:

The ailments are piling up for the Chicago. DeRozan and forward Derrick Jones Jr. (left adductor strain) were both ruled out early for tonight, and Goran Dragic was a gametime scratch.

Oft-injured guard Alex Caruso (left mid-foot soreness) was listed as questionable but is playing.

Pacers have a clean injury report.

Game Time: 6 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago.