The Chicago Bulls (34-25) travel to Indiana to take on a surging Indiana Pacers team (37-22), who has won six out of their last 7. Chicago will have to bring their A-game on offense because the Pacers’ defense ranks in the top five in the league. The potential playoff preview, depending on how each team’s season plays out, will be on ESPN Sunday night at 7 p.m. CST.
Joakim Noah has to continue his hot streak if the Bulls want to beat the second-seeded Pacers. Noah missed the last meeting in Indiana on Feb. 4 with a hurt foot, which Chicago lost by 10. They also dropped a game to the Pacers at home in December by four points. To avoid the season sweep, they need a similar performance to last nights win against Brooklyn.
Paul George (17.8 PPG) and David West (17.4 PPG) lead the Pacers offensively, but Roy Hibbert may hold the key to their success. He anchors the defense that allows the fewest points per game in the NBA averaging more than two blocks per game. After making his first All-Star game last year, Hibbert’s numbers have taken a slight dip, but his impact is still immeasurable.
Hibbert will have to face the center who replaced him in this year’s All-Star game, Joakim Noah. This matchup will most likely decide the game. Indiana leads the league in rebounding, and Hibbert is a big part of that. However, Noah should be able to bring him away from the basket on offense and open up the lane for other Bulls to cut towards the rim. Also, Noah being away from the basket brings Hibbert away from defensive rebounds opening it up for Boozer or other teammates to attack the offensive glass.
Luol Deng has been battling soreness in his mouth after taking an elbow late in Thursday’s game against Philadelphia, so that will be worth keeping an eye on as his numbers have dipped of late.
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