The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers have finished at the top of
the Central Division in each of the past two seasons, largely due
to their defensive prowess.
Defense continues to be both teams’ calling card this year,
though one is currently trying to rebound from back-to-back
Chicago will travel to Indianapolis looking to avoid equaling a
season-high three-game skid in a matchup with the surging
Both Indiana and Chicago own two of the league’s top scoring
defenses at 89.9 and 91.0, respectively. But the Bulls’ defense
hasn’t looked the part of late.
Chicago (15-12) has given up 212 points over its past two games,
its highest two-game total of the season. The Bulls have let their
last two opponents shoot a combined 52.8 percent from the floor – a
number in stark contrast to their 43.1 season average.
The latest defensive meltdown was a 120-97 loss to Houston on
Christmas night. It was Chicago’s largest margin of defeat of the
season and its most points allowed.
Making the loss even more bitter was the performance of Omer
Asik, who tallied 20 points and 18 rebounds against his former
team. Chicago didn’t match the Rockets’ three-year, $25 million
offer sheet for Asik in the offseason.
Each Houston starter scored in double figures while Chicago’s
starting five combined to shoot 39.1 percent from the field. Nate
Robinson led the Bulls with 27 points off the bench on 9-of-16
“If you are not right and don’t have an edge, you are not going
to win without the right amount of intensity,” Bulls coach Tom
Thibodeau said. “They completely outplayed us from the start.”
A road game against a conference foe might provide a fix for the
Bulls, as they’re 6-1 in such games.
“In this league things change,” forward Taj Gibson told the
team’s website. “It’s no time to panic … we just have to get
ready for the next game, adjust, work on the fundamentals and get
back to what we’ve been doing. We can’t feel sorry for
The Pacers (16-12) are finding success without reigning leading
scorer Danny Granger. Despite being without the team-leading 21.6
ppg that Granger has averaged since 2007-08, Indiana has won three
in a row and seven of eight.
In his absence, they’ve primarily relied on three players –
David West (17.4 ppg), Paul George (16.3) and George Hill (15.0).
Most recently it was West, who scored 20 of his 25 points in the
second half of an 81-75 win against New Orleans on Saturday.
The Pacers trailed by 22 at one point and owed the comeback in
large part to their defense. They won the third quarter 24-7 while
holding New Orleans to 3 of 17 from the field.
Indiana’s 40.8 percent field-goal defense is the best in the
“When you defend like we defend, you’re definitely never out of
the game,” coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re capable of having
quarters like we did tonight where you’re holding teams to seven
points in the quarter. When you can do that, you can make up huge
The Pacers notched an 80-76 road victory over the Bulls on Dec.
4 with George scoring 34. The teams combined for 37.3 percent