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, visit Indianapolis.
Chicago comes in riding a three-game winning streak after its 111-100 win at home on Monday against Atlanta. DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points in the victory, Zach LaVine added 20 points, and Nikola Vucevic approached a triple-double with 14 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists.
Monday’s win marked a successful return stateside for the Bulls after a 126-108 rout of Detroit last Thursday in Paris. LaVine scored 30 points and DeRozan finished with 26, rejoining the lineup for its trip to France after a three-game absence due to a quad injury.
With his back-to-back 26-point outings, DeRozan has scored at least 21 in 13 of his last 15 appearances — with one of the two outliers including 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 off the bench.
“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.”
Chicago will look to continue its defensive play of the last 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 since Jan. 13 with elbow and knee injuries .
The Pacers are winless over that stretch, and have 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 with its ongoing losing 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 Jan. 14 against Memphis and scoring a career-high 29 points Jan. 16 at Milwaukee, McConnell posted a triple-double in Saturday’s 112-107 loss at Phoenix with 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 rotation sent rookie Bennedict Mathurin back to coming off 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 last two games, both of which he came off the bench.
–Field Level Media