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The Indiana Pacers can lock up the Central Division title with a road win Monday over the Chicago Bulls in a battle of teams bound for the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Pacers, who own the best record in the East and a three-game lead over second-place Miami, look to bounce back from an 82-71 loss at Memphis on Saturday. The Bulls are trying to hang onto a one-game lead over fifth-place Brooklyn and perhaps make up a half-game deficit to overtake Toronto for the No. 3 spot.
It's the second meeting in four days for the division rivals, which Pacers coach Frank Vogel likened to a playoff series. "When you're playing in the playoffs, you play a team and you've got to make adjustments two days later and that's what these two games are going to feel like," Vogel told the Pacers' website. "From that standpoint, it will be good for our guys to dial in to the adjustments." The Pacers won 91-79 at home Friday, taking a 2-1 lead in the season series; the home team has won each meeting.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, FSN Indiana, CSN Chicago
ABOUT THE PACERS (51-19): Indiana is on the brink of winning back-to-back division titles for only the second time in franchise history, but it's coming off a poor offensive performance in which they shot 36.5 percent en route to a season-low point total at Memphis. The Pacers have been somewhat pedestrian on the road, going 19-15 and dropping their last two away from home. Paul George is coming off a triple-double — 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists — in Friday's win over the Bulls but has gone just 9-of-40 from the field over the past three games.
ABOUT THE BULLS (39-31): Chicago has split its last four games, but the two wins have come against hapless Philadelphia, which is in the midst of a 24-game losing streak. Coach Tom Thibodeau has begun to rein in his rotation, using only seven players for more than six minutes in Saturday's 91-81 win over the 76ers. Center Joakim Noah has done it all for the Bulls lately — not only is he averaging career highs for points (12.4) and rebounds (11.2), but he also has led the team in assists in nine of the last 10 games.
1. Indiana is 26-2 when holding opponents under 90 points while Chicago is 26-2 when scoring at least 96.
2. Noah has recorded 20 games this season with at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
3. Pacers C Andrew Bynum is expected to miss his fifth straight game with soreness and swelling in his right knee while G C.J. Watson remains sidelined with a strained right hamstring.
PREDICTION: Bulls 93, Pacers 91