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Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls Saturday NBA Preview & Free Pick

Pacers vs Bulls NBA Handicapping

Boston is down. The Bulls probably won’t get Derrick Rose back this season. The Knicks may or may not have patched things together for the stretch run.

Indiana Pacers (43-26) at Chicago Bulls (36-31)
Saturday, March 23
United Center, Chicago
8 p.m. EST
Spread – Bulls -3.5 from WagerWeb
Total – 180

Matchup | Preview

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And then there’s Indiana, which some observers feel is the only team in the Eastern Conference with enough talent and depth to give the Heat a run for their money in a 7-game playoff series this spring.

The Pacers displayed their depth and talent this past week, punishing Orlando, Cleveland and Milwaukee by an average score of 103-80. And they did it without forward David West, who is nursing a bad back and will miss his fourth consecutive game when the Pacers take on the Bulls tonight in Chicago.

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No West has been no problem for Indiana. Tyler Hansbrough has received extended minutes and risen to the task with three double-doubles in a row, including 22 and 12 against the Bucks.

With a deep lineup (albeit absent a superstar who can take over games in the fourth period), Indiana and Chicago have basically traded places in the Central Division. Indiana is up 6 games on the Bulls, and with just a dozen games left after tonight should clinch the division title sometime in early April.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are limping to the finish line. On Thursday night they were crushed at home by the Trail Blazers, going down by 27 entering the fourth period before the bench players made a late spurt to get it to a respectable 10-point difference at the buzzer.

There clearly are issues in Chicago, which has lost 14 of its last 22 and appears just plain worn down. [ad-6571516]

“We’re not playing great right now,” conceded Joakim Noah. “It’s the final stretch and we’re not getting it done. We’ve got to find a way.”

What that way is is anyone’s guess, but there won’t be any schedule relief this week. After tonight the Bulls don’t play two straight games until April 9 and 11, and the final 14 games include two against the Heat.

There’s no danger of missing the playoffs, but Chicago needs to get its act together or the summer will come sooner than anyone had anticipated.

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The Bulls have been taking some poundings of late – both home and on the road. Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Cleveland and Oklahoma City have all put the wood to Chicago over the last month as the Bulls have shown no consistency as a cover team.

But both Indiana and Chicago have been scoring, so the modest 180 over/under deserves a good hard look. In their previous three games, the Bulls and Pacers have averaged 193 total points.

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