Pacers-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

Although trips to Chicago haven't traditionally brought out their best, the Indiana Pacers are one of only two teams to win on the Bulls' home floor this season.

When they return to the United Center on Monday night, the red-hot Pacers will seek their first seven-game win streak in eight years. However, they will be facing a Chicago team that's also searching for a season-high seventh consecutive win and might have some motivation from the previous matchup.

Including last year's playoff series, Indiana (23-12) is 4-18 in its last 22 trips to Chicago, but the Pacers won 95-90 there Jan. 25 as six of their players scored in double figures. They held the Bulls to 36 second-half points and All-Star point guard Derrick Rose to two in the fourth quarter.

Danny Granger's 22 points led the way in that victory and Roy Hibbert chipped in 20. Chicago got 24 points from Rose and a season-high 20 from Ronnie Brewer, but All-Star forward Luol Deng didn't play due to a torn ligament in his left wrist.

"I'll never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game. I can't wait to play them again," Rose said.

Rose tied a season high with 35 points Sunday to help the Bulls win 96-91 at Philadelphia. The Atlantic Division-leading 76ers missed three shots in the final 1:21 that could have tied the game.

"It was great knowing we didn't get distracted toward the end," Rose said. "We knew what we had to do."

The Bulls (31-8), who moved two games ahead of Miami atop the Eastern Conference, will now try to win seven in a row for the first time since their nine straight wins to end last season. They'll also try to deny the Pacers their first seven-game winning streak in a single season since Feb. 28-March 12, 2004.

The Pacers also won nine in a row bridging the end of that season and the start of 2004-05.

Indiana is averaging 104.0 points during its current run and outscoring its opponents by 17.5 per game. The Pacers blew out New Orleans 102-84 on Saturday as six of their players scored in double figures - something that's happened in Indiana's last five contests.

"We're playing really well right now and playing with a lot of confidence," said Granger, who had a team-best 20 points.

The Pacers, who trail the Bulls by six games in the Central Division and own the third-best record in the East, now must contend with a Chicago team which is 14-2 at home and has won three in a row at the United Center.

Rose averaged a team-best 27.6 points in last year's five-game playoff series with Indiana, and has scored 28.8 per game over the last four regular-season matchups in this series.

Granger averaged 21.6 points in last year's East quarterfinals - 10.4 more than any other Pacers player - and has scored 24.7 per game in his last nine regular-season matchups with Chicago.

Indiana is seeking a third straight victory over Chicago in the regular season, but the Bulls have still won 14 of the last 22 matchups between the teams excluding playoffs.

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