Danny Granger's no Derrick Rose, but he's the Pacers best player, and they've struggled without him. Indiana sits at 8-9, floating around .500 just like the Chicago Bulls. Much like Chicago, they've largely earned their wins over scrub teams while losing to the average/good teams of the league (exception being a road win against the Lakers).
The Pacers play with a formula familiar to the try-hard Bulls. They presently rank second in defense and 29th in offense which makes them even more lopsided in their defensive reliance than Chicago (who'd have thought that was possible).
The Pacers now led offensively by David West, a Boozersque type of offensive player who can give you scoring volume while struggling against strong interior defense due to limited size/athleticism for his position. Of course West isn't making 15 million per year, gives a more consistent effort, and is having a much more effective season so far.
They've got George Hill playing the role of guard who has to create his own shot far too often for his ability level while defensive juggernaut Paul George seems to have regressed offensively. Hibbert and Hansbrough can't hit the broad side of a barn on offense so far as both are shooting under 40% from the field which is especially pathetic for big men.
Effectively, the Pacers are a team of well coached high level role players desperately missing the star player to give the rest of them space. Much like Chicago, they lack any real credible shooters to inspire fear or space the floor and the crowded paint makes everyone else's job uncomfortable offensively.
Boozer vs West
When Boozer's playing well, he brings to the table much of what David West does and both players will probably relish the idea of going up against a defender that doesn't have a huge size or quickness advantage on them. While West is having the superior season, he's the type of player Boozer should be able to score on.
On the other side of the ball, everyone scores on Boozer anyway, so the Bulls relative advantage at the PF position is probably better than some other matchups even if West has the superior night.
Butler or Belinelli?
The Chicago Bulls will most likely start Jimmy Butler or Marco Belinelli at SG tonight [there's a miniscule chance they could go with Nate Robinson as a completely out of the box solution, but that's a stretch]. Jimmy Butler has vastly outplayed Belinelli this season. Jimmy Butler looks like a mid to long term piece for this franchise while Belinelli is definitely gone next season.
It seems, given those two pieces of information, that the solution would be to start Jimmy Butler. However, Thibodeau has shown in the past that he likes to keep guys in their role. Don't be surprised if they keep Butler on the bench so that his role doesn't change and give Marco the starting nod despite his poor play.
He'll likely just get yanked much earlier than Hamilton. A starting spot may also kick start Belinelli who's struggled to play up to even the modest ability level he's shown in the past. He also, theoretically, brings more offense to the table than Butler and may keep the starters with a more similar vibe than inserting Butler into the lineup.
While Thibs is unlikely to reveal the starter until close to tip off, and it could easily go either way, I'd put my money on Beli.
First one to score 80 wins?
Given the lack of offensive creation, slow pace, and defensive orientation of both squads I look for a game less watchable than a Kings / Wizards contest where you could at least expect some exciting dunks. There will be plenty of grinding it out in the half court with inept offensive players operating against elite defenses with no space and both teams chucking a lot of long twos at 37% from the field.
I don't like Chicago's odds in this game as I think they'll struggle a bit adjusting for Hamilton's injury after he started off the season playing pretty well on offense. Without Rip, the Bulls lofty 20th in offensive efficiency probably slips even lower. I also think the Pacers have played beneath their talent level for much of the season, and a matchup against Boozer could ignite even the most struggling of front courts.
Hopefully, Chicago find a way to grind out enough offense to win, it should be a close game if not a particularly exciting one.