The Indiana Pacers ride a three-game winning streak into Wednesday night's crucial Central Division matchup at home against the Chicago Bulls.
The Pacers have won six of the last seven and moved a half game ahead of the Bulls in the standings in the Central Division. These two teams were picked to finish high in the race for the Division title, but both teams have had to deal with injuries to their best players.
The Pacers have been without Danny Granger, while the Bulls have missed former MVP, Derrick Rose.
The Pacers recent win streak has come with two straight on the road. On Saturday, the Pacers bested the New Orleans Hornets, 81-75, thanks to a 52-29 score in the second half. Indiana trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, but the No. 3 ranked defense kicked in and the Pacers prevailed.
"We just came in and said that teams lose 17-point leads in the first half of games all the time," said head coach Frank Vogel. "It happens every week in the NBA, and it usually happens when the better team record wise is the team that is down."
The Pacers play their next two at home and eight of their next 10 in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
The Bulls experience a decidedly un-Merry Christmas when they got blown out at home against the Houston Rockets. Chicago fell 17 down at the half and lost going away, 120-97.
"They scored the ball easily," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Transition, open shots. We did not control the ball. We did not get back. We did not make multiple efforts and had low energy on offense. We gave them everything. They got in transition, they got into the paint, they got open looks at threes. Give them credit. They played well right from the start. We created a lot of our own. They completely outplayed us."
The Bulls, normally one of the best defensive teams in the league, allowed the Rockets to shoot 56.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line.
Nate Robinson led the way for the Bulls with 27 points off the bench. The starters combined for 47 points in an all-around pathetic effort from the Bulls.
Chicago has lost two in a row, but is 8-5 in December. After Wednesday night's game, the Bulls play the next two at home.
The Pacers bested the Bulls, 80-76, in Chicago on Dec. 4. The Bulls are 8-4 in their last 12 in this series.