Monday, March 27, 2023
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NBA Preview: Chicago Bulls (26-31) at Indiana Pacers (25-34)

The Chicago Bulls fell out of positioning for the Eastern Conference play-in tournament with their latest defeat.

The Indiana Pacers are just two games back of their rivals despite an extended slump of their own.

One team will earn a much-needed victory when Indiana hosts Chicago on Wednesday night while the other will go back to the drawing board. Again.

Chicago hopes to have leading scorer DeMar DeRozan in tow. DeRozan exited in the late stages of Monday’s 100-91 home loss to Orlando with a right hip injury he said has been bothering him for more than a month.

DeRozan hasn’t eclipsed the 20-point mark in four straight games, all Bulls defeats, and is averaging 25.4 points a game. That’s 1.5 points per game higher than Zach LaVine, who paced Chicago with 26 points Monday.

Chicago’s Nikola Vucevic has recorded a double-double in nine straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA. Still, the Bulls have failed to top 91 points three times during the skid and are shooting just 20.8 percent from 3-point range in their past five games after a 3-for-21 effort against Orlando.

Indiana has lost five in a row and 16 of 18. One of the victories in that span came Jan. 24 in a 116-110 win against the Bulls.

After falling behind by 12 in the fourth quarter against visiting Utah on Monday, the Pacers climbed to within two points with 3:06 to play but came no closer.

Tyrese Haliburton sparked Indiana with a double-double of 30 points and 12 assists. Haliburton scored 25 points after intermission and shot 50 percent from the floor for the game.

Bennedict Mathurin followed with 21 points in 32 minutes off the bench. Five Pacers finished in double figures, but the team lost the rebounding battle 46-32. Big man Myles Turner missed the game with lower back soreness.

Buddy Hield struggled from long range, shooting just 2-for-11 from deep, but still leads the league in made 3-pointers with 224.

The season series between the Pacers and Bulls is tied at one game apiece, with the teams next set to meet on March 5 in Chicago. The Bulls have won four of the past five meetings.

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