Chicago Bulls (29-18) vs. Indiana Pacers (28-19)
This may have been bad scheduling by the NBA.
The Association gets back to the forefront of the sports world on the day after the Super Bowl. The drive to the Playoffs and the NBA Finals really begins now with the sports world focusing in on this league. So let's lead off this attention era with ... the Bulls and Pacers?
OK, so these are two teams at the top of the Central Division. This is a game that will have some type of implications for the standings. But these are not two teams that score a lot. The basketball afficionado can appreciate the defensive rotations and adjustments that Frank Vogel and Tom Thibodeau make on a game-to-game basis. Just do not expect the score get much higher than 90 for this one.
These two teams played an 80-76 game in their first meeting and you should expect something similar.
The Bulls are still fighting injury issues as Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah have missed the last few games. Luol Deng has had to carry a large part of that role. So has Nate Robinson, who was named the Eastern Conference's Player of the Week earlier today. Chicago has plenty of fight in it to keep pace with Indiana, even against that kind of defense.
Whether they like it or not, this game will be one that affects the results in April. Stay tuned and enjoy some basketball.
Other Storylines to Watch
-Oh, this game was not even supposed to be on the schedule. Tonight's game between the Pacers and Bulls was originally scheduled for a December date, but snow storms kept the game from happening as scheduled. Therefore, this game actually starts the rare back-to-back-to-back for the Pacers. At least it will give both the Pacers and Bulls a chance to wear their throwback uniforms.
-Richard Hamilton has provided some steady play for the Bulls at shooting guard. But he has not quite delivered on the contract he is finishing off and the Bulls seem to be thinking about moving Hamilton. He seems to be the guy the Bulls most want to move if they do anything at the trade deadline. Hamilton's veteran presence would be extremely useful for a championship contender.
Tonight's Other Games
Orlando Magic (14-33) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (20-26)
The Magic will have only two active guards for tonight's game. That is because J.J. Redick hurt his shoulder in Saturday's loss to Milwaukee and is being held out of tonight's game. That leaves 48 minutes for E'Twaun Moore and Ish Smith to split between the two of them... at two positions. Arron Afflalo is still out with a bruised thigh and Jameer Nelson has a bruised forearm. This could get rough against All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.
Los Angeles Clippers (34-15) vs. Washington Wizards (11-35)
There were rumors floating around about the Clippers and Celtics were talking about a trade involving Kevin Garnett with Los Angeles visiting Boston on Sunday. Those rumors were shot down pretty quickly Monday. But that rumor is out in the universe. And the Clippers are still waiting for Chris Paul to return from his bruised knee.
Detroit Pistons (18-30) vs. New York Knicks (30-15)
There is a growing Internet movement to get Knicks forward James White into the Dunk Contest. He is a bit of a YouTube sensation. And he has backers in his corner now. Iman Shumpert, quite the leaper himself, is hoping that White can get the invite to the All-Star festivities. After Jeremy Evans took the world by storm last year with his dunk contest performance, there certainly is precedent for White to take flight.
Charlotte Bobcats (11-35) vs. Miami Heat (30-14)
LeBron James has toyed with the dunk contest numerous times in the past. Now that Dwyane Wade is the captain of the East's Saturday Night contingent. So, of course, Wade tried to get his Miami teammate to finally throw his hat into the ring on the dunk contest. James continues to turn Wade down. Keep trying, Dwyane. Keep trying.
Dallas Mavericks (20-27) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (35-12)
Oklahoma City held its collective breath during Saturday's game against Cleveland when Kevin Durant left after Alonzo Gee accidentally kneed him in the back. Durant, despite that spindly body, has never really faced any serious injury. It is something that all NBA fans likely dread. This was a close call as Durant came back and put on a show before the Cavaliers ended up winning.
Portland Trail Blazers (24-23) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (18-26)
Nikola Pekovic takes trade rumors as something of a compliment. The Trail Blazers are reported to have some interest in the burly center. For some players that would be something of a distraction. But for a guy who had to really work and get his way into the league, Pekovic likes being wanted. And Portland may not be the only team if Minnesota is shopping.
Sacramento Kings (17-32) vs. Utah Jazz (26-22)
Jimmer Fredette is home. His wife surprised him in Utah as the Kings awaited this showdown with the Jazz. And the fans in Salt Lake City still show the Brigham Young product a ton of love whenever he comes back to the Beehive State. The Kings still have plenty of growing to accomplish and that will be tough to do against the Jazz on the road.