Pacers-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls have overcome more than their fair share of injuries in posting the league's best record.

While reigning league MVP Derrick Rose returned to the lineup their last time out, the Bulls are likely to be without Luol Deng for at least the next few games.

Injury-plagued Chicago looks to stay undefeated at home Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers as the teams meet for the first time since last season's first-round playoff matchup.

After missing the previous four contests due to a sprained left big toe, Rose posted 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds as Chicago (16-3) improved to 8-0 at the United Center with Monday's 110-95 win over New Jersey.

"All the games I missed I wanted to play," Rose, who said he could be hindered by the injury all season, told the team's official site. "I hate to sit out. I wanted to play knowing we're winning and playing against all these great guards. I missed that."

The Bulls went 3-1 during Rose's absence thanks in large part to Deng, who averaged 19.5 points over that span. Deng, though, suffered what was revealed Tuesday as a torn ligament in his left wrist during Saturday's 95-89 win over Charlotte and is listed as week-to-week.

"I know it's a bad injury and it sounds terrible, but really, I think it will fine. We've got a good team, and I think I'm going to be fine," said Deng, who is hoping to avoid surgery.

"I'm just trying to get it down to a certain level where I can play again. I'm really confident in the fact that I'll be out there, hopefully soon."

In addition to Deng, Chicago continues to persevere despite also dealing with injuries to John Lucas III (strained groin) and Taj Gibson (sprained left ankle).

"It's a testament to our guys," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I think we have the right guys. Whenever they are called upon they are ready to go. They're not here by accident. We feel they are all talented and can play. When they get the opportunity, they all do well and we expect them to do well."

The Bulls haven't opened with nine straight home victories since winning their first 37 games as host in 1995-96. Since selecting Rose No. 1 overall in the 2008 draft, Chicago has taken all nine home meetings in this series by an average of 12.8 points - including the 2010-11 postseason.

While the Pacers (11-5) proved to be a formidable opponent during last season's playoffs, they ultimately came up short, losing the series 4-1.

Second-place Indiana dropped to 3 1/2 games behind Chicago in the Central Division with its first home defeat of the season, 102-83 to Orlando on Tuesday.

"We just have to take this loss and move on," Paul George said. "It's a long season. We must continue to grow and help each other."

The Pacers shot 39.7 percent from the floor and were outscored 57-38 in the second half.

"We had poor offensive execution the whole game," coach Frank Vogel said. "We know how to play. We've played good basketball all year and we didn't tonight.''

While Indiana is likely to have its hands full with Rose, the Pacers could also have a hard time trying to contain Richard Hamilton.

Hamilton had a season-high 10 assists Monday and is averaging 21.0 points on 61.3 percent shooting in his last two games.

"He gives you great leadership, play making ability, big shot making ability and more importantly, he makes the right play," Thibodeau said. "... He runs the floor and he never stops moving. He makes the offense hard to be defended. That becomes contagious."

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