Two teams both playing at a faster pace this season than in past years meet in the Windy City, so look for a rather surprising high scoring game when the Pacers visit the Bulls Monday.
In the immortal words of Bob Dylan, “The times, the times they are a changin’,” and two teams that have traditionally played low scoring games against each other could be in for a high scoring affair Monday night when the Indiana Pacers (6-4, 6-4 ATS) pay a visit to the Chicago Bulls (6-3, 3-6 ATS) at the United Center in Chicago, IL at 8:05 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Midwest.
The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 198½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘over’ set at -108.
The Pacers began this season 0-3 as they were adapting to a new style, but they have been the winning NBA picks in six of their last seven games to get to 6-4, which has them third in the Central Division but only two games behind the first place favorites to win the Eastern Conference in the Cleveland Cavaliers. It has helped that Paul George has returned for Indiana and is showing no ill effects from the broken leg that knocked him out most of last year.
And splitting the Cavaliers and Pacers in second place are the Bulls at 6-3, making this contest a battle for second place with one-half game separating these teams. Chicago has not been the most consistent team in the league thus far, but the Bulls are currently in a bit of an up-cycle having won three of their last four games following a 102-97 win here at home over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday.
In fact, both teams come in well rested having had Saturday and Sunday off.
New Up-Tempo Style for Indiana
The Pacers have gone smaller and faster this season, letting defensive stalwarts Roy Hibbert and David West walk during the off-season while adding a bona fide scorer in the backcourt in Monta Ellis and moving George to the power forward position, where what he lacks in brute strength he makes up for by being quicker than just about anyone that is covering him. And based on the last seven games Indiana is flourishing with its new look!
The Pacers had been primarily a defensive minded team since Frank Vogel took over as head coach, and while they did usually play great defense, the offense was very methodical such as when it ranked 19th in the NBA in pace rating last year at 95.5 possessions per game, which was actually an uptick from the pace rating of 94.9 possessions two years ago. That pace is up to 97.8 possessions this year and the Pacers come off a season-high 107 points vs. Minnesota Friday.
And George is once again playing like an MVP candidate, as he has averaged 29.3 points and 9.3 rebounds over the last six games while scoring at least 25 points in all six of those contests, marking the longest 25-point scoring streak of his career. Thus, George has adapted well to the power forward spot despite his rather slender build for the position, and we could see the Indiana offense improving even more as the season goes on.
Chicago Scoring is Up
It was not too long ago that the Bulls finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference under former coach Tom Thibodeau, who was a defensive mastermind that often treated offense as an afterthought. Never was that as obvious as two seasons ago, when the Bulls simultaneously led the NBA in the fewest points allowed and the fewest points scored!
To his credit, Thibodeau did give some more free reign to the offense last season thanks to the addition of Pau Gasol and the rapid development of first-time All-Star Jimmy Butler, and the Chicago scoring average went from just 93.4 points per game in 2013-14 to 100.2 points last season in what still turned out to be Thibodeau’s last year at the helm.
Now, the Bulls’ scoring has spiked a bit more this year to 101.4 points per game in the first season under Fred Hoiberg, but at the same time there has been noticeable slippage on the defensive end with Chicago down to 12th in points against at 99.4 per game, and the Bulls have had trouble defending the perimeter ranking 19th in three-point defense at 34.2 percent, which is a serious concern vs. an Indiana offense ranked eighth in three-point shooting at 36.1 percent.
Bucking Recent History Here
Finally, we are very well aware that the ‘under’ is 5-1 in the last six meetings between these clubs overall and 6-2 in their last eight meetings in Chicago. But as already mentioned, these are not your father’s (or older brother’s) Pacers and Bulls as the 2015 versions of these teams can actually score.
With this in mind, we are electing to buck the recent head-to-head history here and go ‘over’ between Indiana and Chicago as we look for this contest to get into the 200s at the United Center on Monday.
NBA Pick: Pacers, Bulls ‘over’ 198½ (-108)