Pacers, Bulls aim for more consistency (Dec 26, 2016)

BY AP • December 25, 2016

CHICAGO -- Forgive Indiana Pacers forward Paul George if he seems a bit grumpy during the holidays.

The All-Star performer and his teammates have lost back-to-back games to fall one game below .500, and George does not want to experience his first three-game losing streak of the season Monday night when the Pacers visit the Chicago Bulls.

"Our identity is inconsistency," George told the Indianapolis Star after his team's latest loss. "We've yet to spread from the pack (in the Eastern Conference) and we've yet to string some games together. We've yet to take a step back and look at the big picture and point out some things that we're doing well over the course of this season. So, really, we have nothing to fall back on right now."

The Pacers (15-16) will try to establish a positive trajectory when they visit the Bulls (14-16). The game marks the third meeting this season between the teams with the series even at one win apiece.

Much like Indiana, Chicago has not shown consistency in the first half of the season. The Bulls have lost three straight games and six of the past seven to drop to a season-worst two games below .500.

A lack of scoring has been one of the biggest reasons for the Bulls' recent skid. The team has failed to score 100 points in five of its past seven games.

Wade said adversity could offer valuable lessons to some of his younger teammates.

"The best teacher is experience, and they're experiencing it now," Wade told the Chicago Tribune after the team's 119-100 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Christmas Day. "The only thing you can hope for is that at some point in the season, moments like this will help the team grow. You have to learn how to win together, and some of that comes through defeat."

A grueling schedule will not make the Bulls' mission any easier. The team flew home Sunday night after a late-afternoon game against the Spurs and will bypass its Monday morning shootaround in order to get more rest.

Wade, 34, is expected to play the second game of a back-to-back set. He scored 24 points in 28 minutes Sunday and has averaged 19.2 points per game this season, which ranks second on the team to Butler.

The Pacers expect to welcome back veteran guard Rodney Stuckey, who has missed the past five games because of a sore left hamstring. Stuckey participated fully in practice Friday and Saturday. He is averaging 9.5 points a game and provides coach Nate McMillan with a dependable option off the bench.

Pacers guard Monta Ellis likely will remain sidelined because of soreness in his groin. The 31-year-old sharpshooter has averaged 9.7 points in 24 games (23 starts) this season.

For the Bulls, guard Michael Carter-Williams could return to the court for his fourth game of the season. Carter-Williams has been out since injuring his left wrist and left knee Oct. 31 against Brooklyn. He told reporters he would meet with team doctors before Monday's game in hopes of being cleared to play.

Last season, Carter-Williams averaged 11.5 points and 5.2 assists per game with the Milwaukee Bucks. He averaged 16.7 points as a rookie with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2013-14 and would boost the Bulls' backcourt depth behind Rajon Rondo and Wade.

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