Afternoon NBA Hoops: Bulls at Pacers

The Chicago Bulls picked up a much-needed victory their last time out, but they are still hardly resembling a team to fear in the playoffs.

The Bulls look to regain their swagger on Sunday afternoon when they visit the Indiana Pacers and try for a rare win at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Chicago (40-30) is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, only four games back of first-place Detroit, but has not been playing good basketball lately.

Oddsmakers have made Chicago -2 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 183.5 total points (View NBA Sports Books). Our public betting information

shows that 66% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -2 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

After dropping consecutive games to teams with losing records - Memphis and the Los Angeles Clippers - the Bulls needed a tip-in from rookie Tyrus Thomas with two-tenths of a second left to beat Denver 109-108 at home on Thursday.

Thomas got the basket off a missed jumper by Ben Gordon following a long scramble for a loose ball.

"It was good for the team. Hopefully, it is something we can continue to build on," Thomas said. "I don't know what happened, I am just glad we got the win. Now I just have to put this game behind me."

Although it won, Chicago's normally solid defense had another shaky game.

The Bulls have the second-best field goal defense in the league at 43.8 percent, but allowed the Nuggets to shoot 55.4 percent from the floor. They are allowing their last four opponents to shoot 50.0 percent overall, and connect on 45.8 percent (22-of-48) of their 3-pointers.

"We really have some defensive concerns, there is no doubt about that," coach Scott Skiles said. "We need to start trending in the other direction."

Gordon got back on track against Denver, finishing with 25 points on 10-of-23 shooting after scoring just 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting in Tuesday's 103-89 home loss to the Clippers. He managed just three points on 1-of-8 shooting in his first game against the Pacers this season, but has scored 54 points on 18-of-31 shooting in his last two games against them.

Chicago has won two of three over Indiana (31-37) this season, but lost its last meeting 98-91 on Jan. 22 at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Bulls have had little success over the years.

The Pacers have won 16 of their last 17 home games over the Bulls.

Indiana is coming off its most lopsided win of the season, 95-70 over Miami on Friday. The Pacers have won their last two home games by a combined 48 points after holding the Heat to their lowest point total of the season.

"We know these games are of great significance because the playoff race is so tight," coach Rick Carlisle said. "We have to do everything possible to protect our home court."

The Pacers have split their last four games following a season-high 11-game losing streak, as they continue to fight Orlando, New Jersey and New York for one of the final two playoff spots in the East.

"It was a good game for us, but now we have a tougher task - and that's trying to stay in the playoffs," Jermaine O'Neal said. "Almost every game is a must win."

O'Neal, who has been slowed by a sore left knee, finished with 15 points and 12 boards - his first double-digit rebounding effort since March 6.

He's averaging 15.0 points - 4.4 points below his scoring average - on just 33.3 percent shooting in his last four games, and has also struggled against the Bulls lately. The 6-foot-11 center is averaging 15.2 points on 36.5 percent shooting in his last five games against them.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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