Indiana (20-20) has dominated Chicago (23-18) at home since March 1999, winning 15 of 16 meetings by an average of 12.6 points. The Pacers’ lone loss in that span came last Jan. 21, and including that defeat, they’ve dropped four of the last five overall matchups with the Bulls.
Indiana fell 108-106 to New York on Saturday, giving it a season-high four consecutive defeats following a season-best three-game win streak. The Pacers have not dropped five in a row since March 27-April 4, a skid that culminated with a 102-96 loss at Chicago.
Mike Dunleavy had 14 points in Saturday’s loss and Troy Murphy added 10 points and 11 rebounds in their first game with the Pacers since being acquired in an eight-player trade with Golden State on Wednesday. Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod also came to Indiana in the deal.
“You got a good view of what we’re getting back, so it’s a positive step toward being really good and being back in the top echelon of our conference,” Jermaine O’Neal said.
The Pacers are allowing an average of 108.0 points during their four-game slide.
O’Neal, who leads the Pacers with 19.3 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, is averaging just 13.9 points in his last seven games against the Bulls at Conseco Fieldhouse.
Chicago is trying to rebound from a poor shooting performance in a 95-85 loss to Utah on Saturday that halted its three-game winning streak. The Bulls shot 38.2 percent from the field, went 1-for-12 from 3-point range and missed 10 free throws.
“We had 11 naked, wide-open looks that we missed in the first half,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “We are still not where we need to be as far as playing through that situation. Sometimes, you miss those shots, and it ends up being a whole game of misses.”
The Bulls are struggling to find consistency, averaging 105.3 points in their victories and 91.6 in their defeats.
A recent problem for Chicago has been nagging neck and back injuries to center Ben Wallace that forced him to miss two contests from Jan. 13-15. Skiles said the ailments are expected to bother Wallace for the remainder of the season.
The Bulls signed Wallace as a free agent from Detroit in the offseason, hoping he would provide a strong inside presence. He has struggled at times this season, though, and is averaging 6.6 points and 10.1 boards—his lowest rebounding average since 1999-2000.
The four-time NBA defensive player of the year has had success against the Pacers this season, averaging 9.0 points and 15.5 rebounds as the Bulls have taken both matchups at the United Center.
These teams conclude their season series with another meeting in Indianapolis on March 25.