Pacers vs. Bulls preview: Chicago looks to avoid season sweep

USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls take on the Pacers at home Saturday night looking to avoid a rare season sweep.

The Chicago Bulls get their final chance to beat the Indiana Pacers this season as the two teams meet up at the United Center on Saturday night.

An increasingly heated division rivalry in recent years, the Bulls have dropped three games to the Pacers already this season. The games have only been decided by an average of about six points, but after going 8-3 against Indiana in the previous three seasons, the results disappoint.

For now, the Bulls' bigger priority is likely to avoid the No. 8 seed in the East. Once looking like a possibility for homecourt advantage, Chicago is now just 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee for the final postseason spot and a first round date with the Miami Heat.

Considering the way Miami has looked in recent weeks, a Derrick Rose return likely wouldn't even be enough to make that series particularly interesting.

The Bulls have struggled badly in recent weeks with Rose still out and players such as Taj Gibson missing time, especially on the offensive end. A team built to surround Rose's talent, Chicago has averaged just 93 points per game over its past eight games, six of which were losses.

The biggest problem for Chicago has been the backcourt, as Blog a Bull, SB Nation's Bulls blog, explains. Rose will be able to alleviate those issues somewhat, but he needs to actually get on the court first before we could know just how much he would help this season.

For Indiana, a team that's already clinched its playoff spot with the second-best record in the conference, landing a high seed and homecourt advantage is the name of the game. There are five games separating the Pacers and fifth-place Atlanta in the standings, so they're in a strong position barring a big slide.

Saturday's game begins at 8 p.m. ET.

Starring in Chicago: The Pacers!

The Pacers usually don't pile up big point totals, choosing to win games with suffocating defense, but their stars have been on display against the Bulls this season. People may not typically think of Paul George or David West when listing the biggest names in the Eastern Conference, but you'd get that impression if you watched any Pacers-Bulls game this season.

Exhibit A: Dec. 4, George scores 34 points in an 80-76 victory. He shoots 14 for 25 from the field and a perfect 5 for 5 from the charity stripe. He also pitches in nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists for good measure. West adds 10 points, nine rebounds and five dimes.

Exhibit B: Feb. 4, West piles up 29 points on 11 for 18 shooting, plus nine rebounds, four assists and three blocks, in a 111-101 win. George finishes with 21 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks.

Exhibit C: March 3, West again takes the leading role with 31 points on 11 for 18 shooting in addition to grabbing seven rebounds. The Pacers win 97-92 as George adds 10 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

All in all, West averages 23 points and 8.3 rebounds per game against the Bulls this season. George averages 21.7 points, 10 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals in the same games.

West won't be playing in this game, as Indy Cornrows, SB Nation's Pacers blog, reminds us, but stopping George will be key if the Bulls want to get a win against Indiana this season.

More from SB Nation:

Saturday's March Madness TV schedule

How the NBA can compete with NCAA's one-and-done stupidity

An open letter to NBA nerds at the start of March Madness

Derrick Rose: "I just know I'm close"

Andrew Sharp: LeBron is our MJ

The best NBA draft prospects of March Madness

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