After having a four-game winning streak snapped in their most recent trip to the court, the Chicago Bulls will try to bounce back when the slumping Indiana Pacers pay a visit to the United Center this evening for a Central Division clash.
Chicago's run came to an end with Monday's 101-95 defeat to resurgent Washington at the Verizon Center, with the Wizards outscoring the Bulls 31-16 in the third quarter to erase a 10-point halftime deficit.
Ahead 81-76 two minutes into the fourth quarter, Washington put together a 12-4 run to extend its lead to 13 points with under 5 1/2 minutes to play. Chicago responded with a 15-3 spurt, with Derrick Rose tallying nine of those points, to pull within 96-95 with under two minutes left, but failed to score the rest of the way.
"Overall, I thought [the Wizards] outworked us. That was the bottom line," Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We didn't get out in the open court and attack as much as we did."
Rose ended with a team-best 22 points and added six assists, while recently- acquired Flip Murray contributed 16 points off the bench for Chicago.
The Bulls have still gone 11-5 since January 22 and appear to be on solid ground in regards to making the playoffs. Chicago currently occupies sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 29-27 record and is 1 1/2 games in front of both Milwaukee and Charlotte, the two teams tied for the East's final postseason berth at the moment.
A third victory over the wayward Pacers this season would further bolster the Bulls' playoff hopes. Chicago has taken the first two matchups between these divisional foes in 2009-10, including a 109-101 verdict in Indianapolis earlier this month behind a 23-point, 11-rebound effort from Luol Deng. The Bulls have prevailed in seven of their past eight matchups with Indiana at the United Center as well, including the last three tilts.
Danny Granger registered 27 points and 10 rebounds for Indiana in that February 9 meeting, but the standout small forward may miss a second straight game this evening because of an undisclosed family matter. Without their leading scorer, the Pacers were dealt their fifth defeat in their last six outings with Monday's 91-82 setback in Dallas.
Indiana shot a woeful 36.9 percent from the field and made just 3-of-23 attempts from three-point range, and trailed by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter. The Pacers closed the contest on a 14-1 run to get the deficit under double digits.
"Got to make some shots in order to win in this league," Pacers head coach Jim O'Brien said. "We did not make shots. We defended fairly decently. We chart every possession, and we missed 27 open looks and that was the difference in the game."
T.J. Ford topped the punchless Pacers with 14 points, with Troy Murphy putting up 10 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times