A rivalry from the 1990s continues today as the 19-16 Indiana Pacers visit the 12-22 Chicago Bulls (8 p.m. ET Friday).
Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller are long gone from this matchup, but there’s still plenty of intrigue here. Chicago was supposed to be tanking this season, but the squad has now won nine of its last 11 games since forward Nikola Mirotic returned. The Pacers are much better than expected this season, but have lost two in a row and are now without star shooting guard Victor Oladipo.
One team is playing much better than the other as of late, but the other has been much more consistent throughout the campaign. This preview will ask some questions about the matchup tonight and then offer our betting predictions and picks.
Will Good or Bad Kris Dunn Show Up?
On the whole, the 2017-18 season has been a breakout campaign for Dunn, the Bulls’ starting point guard. He is averaging 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists per contest in his second NBA season.
However, he is very off and on with his play. He has had shooting games of 1-of-11, 2-of-11, 0-of-6, 2-of-9 and 1-of-12 all in the past month or so. But he’s also had lines of 22/5/7/3, 24/5/8/4, 20/6/12/3, 17/7/9/3, 10/5/14/1 and 20/2/12/4 (points/rebounds/assists/steals) in that same stretch.
In those bad shooting games, the Bulls are 0-5 and lose by an average of 19 points per game. In those games with good overall lines, Chicago is 4-2.
Can Myles Turner Step Up as a Capable No. 1 Option?
This season was supposed to be Turner’s coming-out party as Indiana’s clear-cut best player. Instead, Victor Oladipo has stolen the show with a Most Improved Player-caliber year. Turner’s numbers are nearly identical to last year’s numbers, which is problematic given that he’s just 21 years old.
Now that Oladipo is out, Turner has to prove he is ready to step up as the Pacers’ No. 1 guy. Some ways he can do that are by being more assertive when he gets a smaller player guarding him in the post, and working harder on the boards, where his numbers (6.9 rebounds per game) are unacceptable for a 7-footer.
Indiana really doesn’t have anyone else with No. 1 option potential, so Turner needs to be the guy to bring his best performance.
Have the Bulls Found Consistency in Their Three-Point Shooting?
In today’s NBA, three-point shooting makes a huge difference in the average contest. Cold shooting can doom a team otherwise playing well, and hot shooting can save a squad that can’t do anything else well.
Chicago seems to have found a groove with its three-point shooting as of late. The Bulls haven’t really had many games where they have gone completely nuclear from the outside, they have shot at least 33.3 percent from behind the arc in 16 of their last 18 games. In the 16 games prior to that, they hit that benchmark a measly six times.
The return of Nikola Mirotic has been a huge help in the three-point shooting area. Chicago probably still are not a great three-point shooting team. But if they stay steady hitting around 12 threes per game at a respectable clip, their league-worst offense will continue to play much better than their pedigree.
Our Preview’s Indiana Pacers vs. Chicago Bulls Betting Picks & Predictions
Are the Bulls with Mirotic better than the Pacers without Oladipo? If recent trends continue, they are, but I refuse to believe that Chicago is quite this good. The squad is pulling out an inordinate number of close games and seems to be pulling unnaturally above its talent level on both ends of the floor.
- The American oddsmakers seem to like the Bulls’ chances at keeping up their current play, as they have Chicago as a three-point favorite here. Even if the Bulls do win at home, they have been prone to close games and could win by fewer than three points. Bet on the Pacers +3 @ -110 with Bovada, Intertops or 5Dimes.
- Without Oladipo, I think the Pacers skew more towards the defensive end of the floor than they usually do. Also, the Bulls are just a bad offensive team, despite what they have occasionally shown as of late. This preview recommends going with the under 208.5 total points @ -110 with 5Dimes or Bookmaker.