The sputtering Indiana Pacers will try to snap a seven-game losing streak on Tuesday when the Chicago Bulls, playing the second leg of a back-to-back set, visit Indianapolis.
Chicago comes in riding a three-game winning streak after a 111-100 home victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points in the latest triumph. Zach LaVine added 20 points, and Nikola Vucevic amassed 14 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists.
The result marked a successful return stateside for the Bulls after a 126-108 rout of the Detroit Pistons on Thursday in Paris. LaVine scored 30 points in that contest while DeRozan, rejoining the lineup for the trip to France after a three-game absence caused by a quad injury, finished with 26.
With his back-to-back 26-point outings, DeRozan has scored at least 21 in 13 of his past 15 appearances — with one of the two outliers being the Jan. 9 loss at Boston in which he first sustained his injury.
DeRozan — appearing in his 1,000th career game — was one of six Bulls to score in double figures against the Hawks. Alex Caruso and Coby White recorded 12 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.
Chicago rallied after shooting 24 percent in the first quarter.
“Something we’ve talked about throughout this year, there’s going to be games where shots don’t go in,” Caruso told NBC Sports Chicago in his postgame interview. “We’ve got to fall back on our defense and our discipline and our principles.”
The Bulls will look to continue their defensive play of the past two outings against a Pacers team that has struggled to find consistency with Tyrese Haliburton out of the lineup.
Haliburton — Indiana’s leading scorer on the season at 20.2 points per game and the NBA’s assists leader with 10.2 a contest — has been sidelined sustaining elbow and knee injuries on Jan. 11.
The Pacers are winless over that stretch, having reached their season-long scoring average of 115 points per game just once.
Haliburton told Bally Sports Indiana the elbow is slowing his return to the lineup more than his knee. On JJ Redick’s “The Old Man and The Three” podcast, Haliburton suggested an early February return.
Indiana has dropped two games below .500 due to its ongoing skid.
“As bad as it looks, it’s really not that bad,” Buddy Hield said at the team’s Monday media availability. “We’re still in the mix.”
A positive for the Pacers amid their struggles has been the play of T.J. McConnell. After flirting with a triple-double on Jan. 14 against Memphis and scoring a career-high 29 points on Jan. 16 at Milwaukee, McConnell posted a triple-double on Saturday in Indiana’s 112-107 loss at Phoenix: 18 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds.
“Try to be myself and get my teammates involved, shoot when I’m open, and be a pest on defense,” McConnell said of his approach after moving into the starting lineup on Saturday. “Trying to get one-third of Tyrese would do with this unit.”
McConnell’s move into the starting five sent rookie Bennedict Mathurin back to the bench, where he has thrived much of the season. After scoring 26 points in the first of four consecutive starts, Mathurin recorded less than his 17.3-point per game in three straight outings.
He finished with 19 and 23 in Indiana’s past two games, coming off the bench each time.
–Field Level Media