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Pacers vs. Bulls preview: Pacers resume rivalry with Bulls

Indiana hopes to strike first in their season series vs Chicago.

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Jonathan Daniel

The 8-9 Indiana Pacers resume their rivalry with the 8-7 Chicago Bulls Tuesday night. The Bucks are leading the Central Division as of today, but don't tell these two teams...they both still think it's their division to lose.

The Bulls will host the Pacers without Rip Hamilton, who was diagnosed Monday with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.

Tuesday night should be an old school, low-scoring battle. After all, it's a matchup of the 3rd and 4th stingiest defenses in the league. If either team scores over 95 points it'll be bizarre.

The Pacers are coming off of a 2-1 west coast trip, which ended in a comeback loss at Golden State. That effort ended their 3-game road win streak and 2-game streak overall. In that contest, Paul George didn't score a single point. His 0-7 night in The Bay came on the heels of a 2 for 11 outing at Sacramento. You have to think that Paul will bounce back and exceed his season average of 13.5 ppg (3rd on the team) against the Bulls. His matchup against Luol Deng (leading Chicago at 18.1 ppg) will be key on Tuesday night.

The Hibbert vs. Noah battle on the block is usually worth a preview, itself. But Roy's had such a slow start to the season offensively it'll likely be more of a rebounding battle. No, I'm more intrigued by David West. He continues to wind back the clock this season (in a contract year). West's 17.8 ppg leads the Pacers and should serve as an example for the disappointing Boozer in Chicago. David has led Indiana in scoring the past two games (31 at SAC, 23 at GSW).

Pacers reserve Sam Young has quietly taken advantage of increased minutes lately. His rugged style on the wing will be needed against the crafty Deng. He'll also be charged with matching the energy and effort of second-year Bull, Jimmy Butler, who's taken most of Belinelli's minutes off of the bench. There's also another race between the Pacers and Bulls, and it's got nothing to do with the standings. Which one of these squads will get their leading scorer back first?

Derrick Rose is on schedule following ACL surgery while Danny Granger is just starting his rehab from his much smaller knee procedure. Indiana has only played one game in the division, a 14-point loss at Milwaukee.

The Pacers will look to get some momentum going in their region Tuesday night, visiting a very familiar place. Dating back to their playoff series in 2011, Indiana has occasionally fallen short to the Bulls in 'crunchtime'. I expect another close game between these two rivals, a good thing for the Pacers these days. If there's one thing Frank Vogel's crew has shown this year, it's that they're a clutch squad.....just ask the Los Angeles Lakers. I can't wait to see who Tyler Hansbrough knocks over first.

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