Go back two months and this game was circled as an easy win on the calendar, just another game in the stretch of weaker games on the schedule that the Bulls should romp through.
Today? It's a game vs our closest division rival, and a team that's gone on to exceed expectations. The Pacers may be put into a tough situation though as Danny Granger is questionable with an ankle sprain from Saturday's game.
If Granger can't go the game goes from one the Bulls should be favored but might have a tough fight on their hands for, to a game where the Bulls should smack them around like the Timberwolves.
Keys to the game
Defend the three point line
If the Bulls have one weakness that has plagued their defense it's finishing off the later part of their rotations and defending the three point line. The Pacers shoot an utter crapload of threes, and the only way the Bulls lose this game is if the Pacers get hot from beyond the arc.
Make a defensive adjustment to honor the three point shoot, and play a step closer to the three point line than the paint against this squad. Take your chances with Darren Collison driving on the Bulls or Roy Hibbert in the post and don't let them crush you from the outside.
Pound them on the glass
The Pacers are a terrible offensive rebounding team and an average defensive rebounding team as Roy Hibbert can box out on the defensive end but is too slow to position for offensive boards. They have no other particularly good rebounders on the team.
Force the issue against them by attacking the glass hard on both ends. The Bulls should get tons of second chance opportunities and limit the Pacers second chances shots fairly easily. The extra work on the glass should mitigate any damage the Pacers can do from the three point line as well as give the Bulls efficient offense and demoralize their opponent.
Time for Boozer to shine
Who defends Boozer in the post on this team? No one. Boozer is going up against Josh McRoberts, Solomon Jones, and Tyler Hansbrough. He should crush these guys.
Derrick Rose needs to draw some fouls on Roy Hibbert
The Bulls can easily extend their interior advantage by drawing fouls on Roy Hibbert which shouldn't be all that difficult given the speed at which he plays. Once Hibbert is out of the game, the Pacers become exceptionally small and the Bulls advantage in the paint becomes even more pronounced.
This Bulls team shows few signs of complacency, it's a home game, and the Pacers may be without their best player. The Bulls should win this one regardless of whether Granger plays or not, they just need to press their advantages in the paint and the law of averages will work for them (ie, three feet from the hoop is better than shooting 23 feet from the hoop).