Chicago Bulls (16-3) vs. Indiana Pacers (11-4) Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Pippen Ain't Easy Pregame Report: Bulls vs. Pacers

CHICAGO, IL– Chicago Bulls (16-3) vs. Indiana Pacers (11-4)

Location: United Center in Chicago, IL

Time: 7:00pm CST/8:00pm EST

TV: Comcast SportsNet Chicago

Nat’l TV: NBA TV

Radio: ESPN 1000

Announcers: Neil Funk, Stacey King

Line: Bulls by 9.0

Injury Report/Inactives: CHICAGO — PG Derrick Rose (Toe/EXPECTED TO PLAY), SF Luol Deng (Wrist/OUT), Taj Gibson (Ankle/OUT),

INDIANAPOLIS — G A.J Price (Expected to Play), C Roy Hibbert (Expected to Play)

Key Matchup: Joakim Noah vs. Roy Hibbert

Last Game: Bulls beat Nets 110-95 , Pacers lost to Magic 102-83

Last Meeting: December 20, 2010 – Bulls 93, Pacers 85

Series History (Since 2002-03): Bulls lead regular season series 20-16; Bulls lead playoff series 4-1

Last Minute Preview: Of all the games in the Bulls four game home stand, tonight’s game against the Pacers is perhaps the most competitive game by far. The Pacers sit 3.5 games behind the Bulls in the Central and are looking to not only rebound from their first home loss of the season last night, but sucker punch the Bulls in what is becoming a revitalized rivalry.

The Bulls and Pacers had their heyday in 90′s when almost every time these two teams met it was a doozy. But as the talent on both sides went away the match ups were mundane to irrelevant. Now that both teams are on the up and up, both with young players and both with young coaches, the rivalry is starting to get tasty again.

Derrick Rose will be playing injured again tonight, something the Bulls should get used to. But the Pacers are a team that know what it’s like to have an injured Rose on the posit side of the hardwood and they really gave the Bulls a scare when they trounced them in the playoffs. It may have been for one game but it rattled the Bulls and that one loss stayed with them, letting them know how fragile they were against the Hawks and Heat without Rose.

Tonight the Pacers can continue where they left off, in a big spot game with huge ramifications that features an injured Rose. If Indiana can capitalize when they are handed opportunities, look for this game to be a thriller. The Pacers aren’t idiots: they know what they’re up against in Chicago and they don’t like being younger brother. Roy Hibbert is on a tear and is out rebounding Joakim Noah on a per game average 14 – 7.7 rpg.

That will be the matchup to watch. The Pacers are tired and one way that is proven to beat tired teams on a back-to-back is to liquify them in the paint. With Hibbert in the game, the Pacers might be able to counter that.

If nothing else it’s going to be a thriller and hopefully it’ll be a precursor to two other great games this year when these two teams meet.

Prediction:  Bulls 97,  Pacers 92

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