The Indiana Pacers were supposed to host the Chicago Bulls the day after Christmas. But blizzard conditions in Central Indiana forced the game to be postponed just a few hours before the scheduled tipoff. The game is made up tonight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse at 7:00 p.m. with first place in the NBA Central Division on the line.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel joked that he just photocopied the game plan he had prepared for the original December 26 game.
"You just roll with it," said Vogel after the Pacers shootaround Monday morning. "We've got a roll with it mentality that we picked up during the lockout year last year. It's out of your control."
The Bulls arrived in Indianapolis on Christmas night, but left town without playing a game.
"It was one of those things," said Bulls forward Luol Deng before the Bulls Monday morning shootaround. "Probably a lot of people and employees couldn't make it to the game. I understand. It's just another thing that you've got to deal with."
Tonight the teams finally deal with each other. The Bulls might play without three starters. Guard Kirk Hinrich did not travel with the team after elbow surgery Saturday. Forward Joakim Noah told reporters this morning that he does not expect to play tonight because of planter fasciitis in his right foot. Forward Carlos Boozer is suffering from an injured right hamstring. Guard Derrick Rose is still recovering from a torn ACL and has not played all season.
That might mean more playing time for Bulls rookie guard Marquis Teague. The Pike High School graduate returns to his hometown averaging about about seven minutes and two points a game. He says many friends and family will attend the game tonight
"(These are) two really good teams," said Teague, "two of the better teams in the NBA, good defensive teams. So it's going to be a good game tonight. We're going to battle it out."
The rescheduled game gives the Pacers three games over the next three nights. The Pacers host Atlanta Tuesday and play at Philadelphia Wednesday. Pacers forward David West shook his head when asked about the difficulty of playing back-to-back-to-back games. Indiana is the only team facing that scenario this season.
"It's a challenge," said West. "We're in a pretty tough playoff race. We're going to have to dig deep. These next three games we have quality opponents. We don't know what we did to #*$$ somebody off. But we've got to deal with it."
Vogel said he would not adjust his rotations against the Bulls despite the heavy workload this week.
"I'm going to coach this game like it's the only game of the week," said Vogel. "We'll address how the guys are feeling after tonight's game."
The Pacers have won 13 consecutive home games. A win tonight would pull Indiana (28-19) even with Chicago (29-18) at the top of the division.