Friday night’s NBA slate features some intense matchups between playoff teams, as well as some seemingly lopsided contests between one playoff-bound team and one that is battling for a lottery spot at this point in the year. In the case of Indiana and Chicago’s matchup, the Pacers are a playoff-bound team looking to improve upon its playoff seeding, while Chicago is trending towards its third consecutive non-playoff season. With two of the league’s slowest-paced teams facing off, Friday night’s contest figures to be one of the few games on the day that won’t feature a high-scoring affair from either side. Indiana has swept the season series three games to none so far, as Chicago will look to salvage one game against its Central division foe.
Pacers Fighting for Playoff Seeding
Indiana is in the midst of a five-game road trip, one that started off on a positive note with consecutive victories over Cleveland and San Antonio, respectively. As the Pacers round out the road trip with Friday’s contest in Chicago and Sunday’s game in Dallas, Indiana is currently fighting for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers. While the difference between the fifth and sixth seed won’t factor into home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, it does differentiate between matching up against the Raptors, Celtics or Heat. Indiana’s 16-14 record on the road is the fourth-best in the Eastern Conference, so winning away from home has not been an issue for the Pacers this season.
The Pacers have utilized an extremely balanced offensive attack this season, with seven players averaging double figures in scoring led by forward T.J. Warren’s 18.6 points per game. Forward Damontas Sabonis has been the unquestioned star of the team this season, averaging a double-double with 18.4 points and 12.5 rebounds per game in this All-Star campaign. Indiana also recently got star guard Victor Oladipo back from injury, and even though the playmaker hasn’t returned to full health yet, his mere presence on the court likely provides a boost for his teammates. For a team that ranks sixth in the NBA allowing just over 107 points per game on the season, Indiana has largely found success on night’s where the offense has held up its end of the bargain.
Bulls Looking to Build on Recent Success
Despite this season being largely a struggle for the Bulls, Chicago’s recent performances on its home floor have them looking like a team with upside. The Bulls have put together two wins in their last three contests at the United Center, including a win over the playoff-bound Mavericks on Monday night. While Chicago’s 13-19 record at home isn’t overly impressive, the growth and development of this young team in recent weeks has made the Bulls a more credible threat down the stretch of the regular season.
Zach LaVine has put together an impressive season for the Bulls, averaging 25.5 points per game in just under 35 minutes per night. After LaVine, there has been a significant drop-off on the offensive end for Chicago, as only forward Lauri Markkanen has averaged more than 15.0 points per game, and the seven-footer has only seen action in 46 contests this season. With the league’s 25-ranked scoring offense (106.8 ppg) has rarely been consistent enough to support a defense that ranks in the top half of the league.
Even with some major struggles throughout the season, Chicago’s improved play over the past week has Friday night’s contest shaping up to be closer than the experts figured. Indiana likely will rely upon its superior defense to stifle the struggling Bulls offense, and figures to emerge victorious in a low-scoring affair in this one. We’re taking the Indiana Pacers in this one, at our favorite pay per head bookie site A1pph.com.
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