Rush will try to help Indiana win consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month Wednesday night when it visits the struggling Chicago Bulls.
O’Neal, who averages 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, suffered a bruised left knee in a 125-117 win over Golden State last Wednesday and was originally ruled out for at least two weeks. He underwent surgery on the knee in April to repair torn meniscus cartilage, and acknowledged he may have come back too soon.
Now, missing the rest of the season is a strong possibility.
“I don’t know when I’m coming back,” said O’Neal, who plans to visit specialists for additional evaluations. “Missing the season is a worst-case scenario.”
With O’Neal out the last two games, Rush has taken on more of an offensive role, making 20 of 35 shots and scoring 47 points. He is averaging 16.0 points on 46.9 percent shooting while starting the last six games.
“I’ve been really aggressive and have gotten into a streak in these last couple of games,” said Rush, who averaged 6.5 points as a reserve in his first 33 games this season. “My teammates have been looking for me and Coach (Jim O’Brien) wants me to be aggressive. It’s my kind of game. It gets me up and down in the court in a hurry and shooting 3s.”
Rush was outstanding Monday, going 10-for-18 from the field - 5-for-8 from 3-point range - for a season-high 25 points as Indiana opened a four-game road trip with a 110-103 win over Philadelphia. The Pacers (19-23) last won back-to-back games during a season high-tying three-game run from Dec. 15-19.
The Pacers hope Rush can continue his strong play and help them take the second of four season meetings with the Bulls (16-24). He had 22 points in the first matchup, a 117-102 home victory on Dec. 12.
Indiana, though, has lost three in a row and eight of its last 10 at Chicago.
The Pacers lead the Eastern Conference with 103.8 points per game, and the Bulls have lost all 17 games when their opponents score 100.
Chicago, which is opening a four-game homestand, is coming off a disappointing performance in a 104-90 loss at lowly Memphis on Monday. The Bulls shot only 36.5 percent in losing for the fourth time in six games.
“We haven’t been consistent effort wise, and our record is indicative of that,” Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan said. “We can’t have just one, two or three guys giving effort. We have to have all five. Even the teams that don’t have great records are coming to play.”
Ben Gordon, who went 8-for-20 from the field and scored 25 points against the Grizzlies, has been playing well of late, averaging 27.8 points off the bench in the last four games. He leads Chicago with 19.6 points per game.
Gordon is averaging 25.8 points in the last four meetings with Indiana.