Bulls announce pair of exhibition games vs. Pacers

The NBA announced its 2011-12 preseason schedule on Monday, featuring two exhibition games for each team rather than the normal eight contests. To keep travel convenient heading into the compressed regular season, matchups were set based on the teams' geographical location.

The Bulls will play a home-and-home series with the Indiana Pacers, slated for Dec. 16 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indiana and at the United Center in Chicago on Dec. 20.

Although the Bulls eliminated the Pacers in five games in the first round of last season's playoffs, it was a hard-fought series for reigning league MVP Derrick Rose and his teammates. Aside from Game 5, each contest was decided by six points or less.

Fueled by Pacers coach Frank Vogel's gritty mantra, Indiana played physically against the Bulls. However, Bulls players used the grueling series to understand the feeling of getting past the first round together and the level of toughness that's needed in the postseason.

"Definitely -- especially Indiana," Bulls point guard C.J. Watson told me in June when asked about being tested before reaching the Eastern Conference finals. "They prepared us for the next couple series, with the physicality they played with."

The NBA will announce the entire, revised 66-game regular-season schedule on Tuesday night. The Bulls will open the season on Christmas Day against the L.A. Lakers at Staples Center.

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