Bulls-Pacers Preview

The Associated Press

With the Indiana Pacers dealing with key injuries and the Chicago Bulls back to being healthy, the early season Central Division focus was supposed to be shifting back to the latter.

But it's the Pacers hosting the Bulls Wednesday night with a shot at a franchise-first 5-0 start as they try to remain the NBA's only unbeaten team.

"It would be a big win, a huge confidence booster," Indiana's Paul George said. "But it's no statement. The season's still early."

Frank Vogel's team reached 4-0 for the first time since 2004-05 and the third time in history with a 99-91 win at Detroit Tuesday.

Consistent with strong defensive efforts in their first three games, the Pacers jumped out to a 29-14 first-quarter lead by holding the Pistons to 7-of-23 shooting. But they followed that up with just nine second-quarter points.

"Our starters' disposition and attitude and energy took the game back over," Vogel said. "We were able to ride it out."

With Danny Granger still inactive with a left calf injury, George continues to elevate his game. He scored 31 points on 12-of-18 shooting for his second 30-point game this season, bumping his scoring average to 27.0.

The Pacers are holding opponents to 85.5 points per game on 37.9 percent shooting a season after allowing an NBA-low 42.0 percent from the floor.

If there's been anything to complain about, it's been turnovers. They're averaging 19.5 and haven't had a game with fewer than 18.

In addition to being without Granger, the Pacers will be missing guard George Hill for a third straight game with a sore hip. C.J. Watson will again start in Hill's place.

The Bulls (1-2) are trying to avoid losing three of their first four for the first time since drafting Derrick Rose before the 2008-09 season.

They lost 107-104 at Philadelphia Saturday after blowing a 20-point second-quarter lead.

Rose went 4 for 14 with 13 points and six assists. His eight turnovers tied the third highest total of his career.

"I would blame tonight on me," said Rose, who has been dealing with a neck injury. "Turnovers, missed shots, miscommunication - I just couldn't get in my groove."

Rose is averaging 14.3 points on 28.8 percent shooting with 4.3 assists in his first three games back from knee surgery, but it hasn't been only him struggling.

Joakim Noah, an All-Star last season, is averaging 6.0 points on 31.8 percent shooting after averaging a career-high 11.9 points last year.

Opponents are shooting 47 percent from 3-point range against the Bulls while they're hitting just 23.2 percent of their 3s, including a 6-for-30 mark in their last two. Luol Deng is 1 of 12 from long range.

"You've got to correct things immediately; you got to put the work into it," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau told the team's official website. "You can't hope it to happen; you have to make it happen. And we need everybody doing it. We can't rely on a certain two or three guys to do everything. Our entire team is needed. This isn't a Derrick issue, this is a team issue and we have to correct it."

One of Rose's three career 40-point games came at Indiana on March 18, 2011, when he scored 42. Three of his 13 games over 35 have come against the Pacers.

The Bulls are 14-6 against the Pacers with Rose and 4-5 at Indiana. They went 1-3 against the Pacers last year without him, including 0-2 on the road.

George scored 34 points - the second-highest total of his career - in the first meeting with the Bulls last year, an 80-76 Pacers win Dec. 4, 2012.

What to Read Next