As the Chicago Bulls prepare for the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs, the series figures to be a defensive struggle of sorts. The Bulls will end the regular season with the NBA's top defense at right around 1.00 point per possession allowed; with one game remaining, the Pacers sit at No. 12 in the league at 1.06 points per possession. There's obviously a huge difference between tops and 12th, but each of these teams are in the playoffs because of defense.
That's because their offenses aren't spectacular. Chicago currently ranks No. 11 in offense (1.08 points per possession) thanks to a late-season bump; the Bulls were below league average as recent as a month ago. Indiana hasn't seen a bump -- the Pacers are a bad No. 23 in points per possession at 1.05. The team's pace masks that deficiency; because Indiana plays an up-tempo style (No. 6 in pace), the Pacers are No. 11 in raw points per game. But that's more because Indiana gets a tons of shots up per game, not because they are anything like good on offense.
There's really no specific statistical category in which Indiana can figure to make up much ground. The Pacers have a strong shot defense (No. 8), but the Bulls shoot pretty well (No. 13). Chicago is turnover-prone (No. 18 in turnover rate), but the Pacers are an abysmal No. 27 in turnover creation. The Pacers draw fouls well (No. 9), but Chicago is solid at avoiding giving up free throws (No. 12).
The Bulls will absolutely kill the Pacers in one specific area, a pretty important one: Indiana is No. 23 in the NBA in shooting, with a .487 effective field goal percentage. Chicago has the league's top shot defense, giving up .463 eFG% to opponents. Unless the Pacers come up with some improbable hot spells, they'll struggle hard to score in this series.
For more on this series, keep it locked on our Bulls Vs. Pacers section.