- And so we meet again. – (SportsNetwork.com) - And so we meet again.
The Central Division rivalry between the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls will continue Monday night at the United Center.
Indiana is 2-1 against the Bulls and handed them a 91-79 defeat on Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where all five Pacers starters scored in double digits and Luis Scola led the way with 19 points off the bench.
Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustin scored 17 points apiece in that one for the Bulls, who have lost five of seven meetings with the Pacers. Chicago, though, has prevailed in three of four and 13 of last 16 games at home in this series.
A win Monday would clinch a second straight division title for Indiana.
Monday's matchup features two of the top defensive teams in the NBA, as the Pacers are surrendering an NBA-low 91.9 ppg and the Bulls are right behind with 92.1 points allowed. Indiana is first in opponents' field-goal percentage at 41.7 and Chicago is second at 43.0 percent.
The Pacers couldn't build on that recent win over Chicago and dropped an 82-71 decision at Memphis Saturday night. Lance Stephenson scored 15 points and David West was the only other Pacer in double figures with 10. Paul George had just eight points for Indiana, which shot 37 percent from the field and scored a season-low 71 points.
"I did feel like they had a better energy to start this game off," George said of the Grizzlies.
George, who had a triple-double against the Bulls on Friday, is averaging just 11.7 points in his last three games.
Indiana, which has a 19-15 road mark, had won five of six games before losing to the Grizzlies and sit three games ahead of Miami for the East's top seed. The Heat will visit Indiana on Wednesday.
Chicago will resume a three-game homestand and started the stay with Saturday's 91-81 victory over the hapless Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers have lost 24 straight games and made 35 percent from the field.
"Even though it was against Philly, it was a big game," said Augustin. "We just had it in our mind that we needed this game tonight."
The Bulls were a bit better with 44 percent shooting and rode Joakim Noah to 20 points and eight rebounds. Butler scored 17 points and both Augustin and Taj Gibson added 16 in the win, the Bulls' fourth in six tries.
Chicago has a 22-13 record at home and will also welcome Portland to the United Center on Friday. It is 9-3 in the previous 12 games in the Windy City and has a 27-13 overall record since Jan. 1.