Heading into February, there was little to separate the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. But a month later, that is no longer the case, and the Bulls need to start making up ground in the upcoming showdown with their division rival.
Indiana went 9-3 this past month, while Chicago delivered a disappointing 5-8 record over the same stretch.
Now, the two squads are inching towards playing each other in the postseason. The Pacers are currently hold the third seed and the Bulls are sitting in fifth after a 96-85 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night. Anything can happen between now and then, and there's a good chance these two teams could face off in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs.
We're lucky enough to catch this potential playoff preview on Sunday evening, so here is everything you need to know about the matchup between two Eastern Conference rivals.
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Ind.
When: Sunday, March 3, 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3
Betting Line: Not Available as of March 2
Bulls Injuries (via CBS Sports)
PG Derrick Rose, Out, Knee
PF Taj Gibson, Out, Knee
Pacers Injuries (via CBS Sports)
None to report.
Key Storyline: Paul George’s Emergence
While the Bulls are waiting patiently for their star to return, the Pacers are pleased to have found one of their own.
Fans watching this game will not get to see Derrick Rose, but Paul George is certainly capable of putting on a show. George is having a breakout year and is averaging career highs with 17.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
He earned a trip to the All-Star game for his performances, and he has since continued to play at a high level, helping his team win six of its last seven games.
If he continues to play this well, Indiana will be tough to beat in the postseason. He has a chance to prove in this contest that he can deliver against one of the league’s best defenses.
Key Matchup: Roy Hibbert vs. Joakim Noah
Quality centers are a dying breed in the NBA, but two of them will face off in this contest.
Hibbert is not having his best year statistically, and his numbers have regressed since last season, but his size and skill still make him a danger to dominate on the low block.
In contrast, Joakim Noah is having one of his best campaigns and delivered an incredible stat line of 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks against the Philadelphia 76ers two games ago.
Both players will be battling in the paint, and the team whose big man fares best will have a significant advantage.
Projected Starting Lineups
Carlos Boozer, PF
Luol Deng, SF
Joakim Noah, C
Kirk Hinrich, PG
Richard Hamilton, SG
David West, PF
Paul George, SF
Roy Hibbert, C
Lance Stephenson, SG
George Hill, PG
Prediction: Indiana 91, Chicago 83
This will be a gritty game that will be won on the defensive end of the floor.
The Pacers offense will do just enough to squeeze out a victory, with George leading the way in the scoring effort.
These are two evenly matched teams that would provide excellent entertainment if they were to meet in the playoffs. This will be apparent in this contest.