Bulls battle Pacers while both teams miss their star

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.

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  • Nice article Doug! The 76ers along with the Pacers really cause problems for the Bulls especially without Rose due to their athletism and hustle! These 2 teams, along with us of course are missing their main guys. 76ers: Bynum & Pacers: Grainer

    Hopefully with the trade window opening up on the 15th and Rose getting closer to coming back we will have more hope than just being a scrappy .500 team!

  • Not that the bulls necessarily deserved to win this game, but how do you NOT call that foul on Hibbert at the end of the game. 4 point swing that essentially decided the game.

  • Where the Kirk Hinrich signing truly hurts you is the amount of Nate Robinson it means ... live by him when he was hot, but die by him when he decides it's a good idea to attempt an alley oop over two players.

    Still that last no call was ridiculous, this team is painful enough to watch without them being beaten out of it by the refs. Someone better get a fine in the post game press conference.

  • Nice call Doug! First to 80 wins and the Pacers hit 80 and win!

    It pains me to watch this Paxson special. Everyone says they make millions for a reason but everyone else saw this trainwreck coming all offseason except the fools in the front office. Kirk has been a terrible signing as we all expected. What is he shooting like 25%?

  • In reply to Chad:

    What, you never wanted to know what it would be like to shrink Keith Bogans by a couple of inches and have him run the point??

  • I would have hated to have been in the building last night, knowing I had wasted money on that "performance".

    I've seen bad guys in Schwarzenegger movies hit a higher percentage of their shots.

    Worse, I really don't see how having Rose would have been all that much of a help. Sure, he'd hit something like 11-25, but the rest of the team would still partake in massive amounts of suckage.

    These aren't all contested shots or well defended turnovers. They are missing bunnies and seem to be playing loosey goosey with the ball. Derrick alone doesn't solve all of that.

    Deng and Noah both look absolutely worn out, and it isn't even 20 games into the season yet. Again, something that Derrick being back doesn't necessarily alleviate, unless there is a plan to play him at the 3 and 5 spots to give them breathers.

    I said it the other day, and I'll say it again; these pieces put together by GarPax do not fit well. Not with each other, and definitely not in Thibs' paradigm.

  • In reply to Salvamini:

    Worst of all pretty much all the die hard bulls fans knew the F'd up this offseason before it was even over. Only GarPax aka dumb and dumber thought they made some nice moves. Which included landing a stud SG that shoots an outstanding 25% from the field. Massive suckage should be the new advertising slogan. They suck more than a Dyson.

  • The Bulls FO creates a mess in the offseason and will try to trade its way out of it. I can see Bulls trade rumors of the FO looking for more "scoring help" if possible. Well they should of thought of that to begin with since we had scoring problems even with the great teams we had over the last two years. Some of the rumors have the Bulls interested in Jimmer Fredette........Of course the Bulls never admit the problem, I'm sure they blame Nate Robinson since they obviously hate guys that can score the ball.....he's a minimum salary player and he's playing like a MLE contract, he's not the problem but they will call him a ball stopper. He's in because thibodeau is desperate for scoring, and you know your in trouble when a defensive minded coach is desperate for scoring. Mr. Paxson take advice from coach Thibodeau and KNOW WHAT YOUR JOB IS and DO YOUR JOB....DO YOUR JOB.

  • Bulls not getting calls by the refs is a clear sign that their losing respect around the league. The difference being last season that call would have went in our favor.

    As far as I'm concerned we have no backcourt. Nate Robinson can be fun to watch at times, but he's not the guy you want leading your backcourt, he's a energy guy at most. That's his true role on any team. But the Bulls backcourt is so horrible the energy guy has become the only hope to push the ball.

    I surely hope we can make some trades that help, because right now we don't even look like a 8th seed in the playoffs.

  • O.J. Mayo 27 points in his last game
    Ben Gordon 29 points in his last game
    Jamal Crawford 20 points in his last game

    Just figured it was worth mentioning. We already have our shooting guard of the future. Kirk Hinrich!

  • In reply to Hunter:

    Don't forget, Bozo the Boozer, 26 points, in his last 2 games combined, including a whopping 2 points in the 4rth quarter last night.

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