Central Division rival Pacers dealing with their own injured-star woes

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Central Division rival Pacers dealing with their own injured-star woes

Heading into this season, the Pacers were supposed to be the class of the Central Division, capitalizing on Derrick Roses extended absence in Chicago.
However, due to a major injury of their owngo-to scorer Danny Granger, their starting small forward, is out indefinitely with severe knee soreness and reportedly wont return until the next calendar yearIndiana got off to a slow start.
They have since recovered from an early swoon that saw center Roy Hibbert, coming off an All-Star season and a maximum contract extension over the summer, seemingly regress and the teams multiple newcomersan overlooked aspect, as the Pacers have an almost entirely new bench, with the exception of holdover Tyler Hansbrough, a frequent Bulls antagoniststruggle to adjust to their new roles. Indiana is now 8-9, including a buzzer-beating win over the Lakers in Los Angeles, coming into Tuesdays showdown against the Bulls at the United Center.
I think more than anything, I think its just an opportunity for us to get a quality win against a good basketball team, veteran power forward David West told CSNChicago.com at the teams morning shootaround at the United Center. We know theyre not at full strength either, but again, theyre very capable. Were fighting for the division and its just a game thats on our schedule, that we have to do all we can to come out and try to get a win.
Were trying to fill in the gaps where we can, get some guys in positions, get them some experience that they havent had and guys get an opportunity to play. Thats what happens in the league when one of your main guys goes down. Other guys get an opportunity to play, step up and again, we started off rough, but I think guys are doing a better job getting into a flow. Weve had to adjust the offense to make some inroads, in terms of being able to compete and get wins, he continued.
Again, anytime you bring guys into a system, theres always an adjustment period, but its still early and we know what type of talent and capability we have on this basketball team, and we feel like well get in the right flow as the year wears on and obviously, you dont want to be playing your best basketball right now. You want to be playing your best ball later in the year. We feel like we have the team thats built to do that and hopefully we can pick ups wins when we go out, play the game the right way, but as the year wears on, get better.
Obviously you want to do better than you did the year before. I thought a key to our success last year was that we were just healthy. We didnt have any guys miss games. Obviously thats not the case this year, but were building toward the end goal and thats to be full strength as the year wears on, and hopefully fight for one of the top playoff spots. We dont feel like thats out of the grasp or out of the realm of reality for us.
West was an All-Star with his previous team, New Orleans, and appears headed back to that form early in the season, as well as taking over a more vocal leadership following a season in which he was still recovering from an ACL injury with the Hornets. Now in a contract yearhe signed a two-year deal after the lockout and is now poised to be one of the better free agents on the market next summerhes been able to put his stamp on the young Pacers.
I wasnt really healthy, in terms of being able to do what I wanted to do last year, really until the last month of the season. Having an opportunity to have a full summer to just work out, play, improve and then have a full training camp, full preseason, it just helps, he explained. Obviously just feeling more confident in my leg, confident in what I can do, thats contributed to some of the success that Ive had early on.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, who was just the interim coach when Indiana faced off with the Bulls in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs two years ago, now has experience to go with his youthful enthusiasm on the sidelines. Vogel understands that meshing together a retooled roster and continuing to develop young talent, including athletic swingman Paul George, is crucial, even as Indiana deals with preseason expectations.
Even the end of last year, we got to a point where we sort of the hunted because we were playing so well, so I think we got used to it, got a taste of it at the end of last year. Coming into this year, its a double-edged sword. Youve got the expectations and then, youve got to deal with readjusting with Danny being out, so its been a little bit of a struggle, but I feel good about the fact that were remaking our identity and I think that weve got some good basketball ahead of us, he told CSNChicago.com. Guys are just trying to play the team approach. No one guy can make up for Danny Grangers absence. Weve just got to move the basketball, share it and make up for it as a team.
Vogel believes that the Central Division will be a hard-fought race until the end, with the Bucks also factoring in, as the Bulls and Pacers try to hold down the fort without their injured stars.
Milwaukees playing great basketball, too. Theyre right up there, he said. Obviously us and Chicago are right around that .500 mark. Its going to be an interesting fight.

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Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

Doug McDermott scores career-best 31 to lead Bulls past Grizzlies

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Doug McDermott scored a career-high 31 points, Jimmy Butler had a pair of key baskets in the closing minute and the Chicago Bulls beat the Memphis Grizzlies 108-104 on Sunday night.

The Bulls broke a 104-all tie with 25 seconds left on a 15-footer from Butler and a pair of free throws by McDermott. Butler also had a go-ahead 18-footer with 53 seconds left and finished with 16 points to help Chicago win its second straight.

Taj Gibson finished with 18 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls.

Mike Conley led Memphis with 28 points and eight assists, and Marc Gasol had 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Chicago was without second-leading scorer Dwyane Wade, who did not play on the second night of a back-to-back after the Bulls beat New Orleans at home Saturday.

The game featured 16 lead changes and 11 ties, with neither team holding a double-digit lead.

Most of McDermott's damage came in the first half after the Bulls struggled shooting in the latter part of the first quarter. McDermott came off the bench to reverse the trend.

McDermott scored 20 points in the first eight minutes of the second quarter, moving Chicago's lead to eight. He had 22 points for the half and the Bulls led 52-46 at the break.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Nikola Mirotic missed his fourth straight game dealing with an illness. ... F Paul Zipser, a rookie from Germany, started his second game and second straight after coming off the bench in his first 10 appearances this season. ... McDermott converted a four-point play in the second quarter. ... McDermott's 22 first-half points were more than his total for the four previous games (21). ... Chicago scored 14 points in the first quarter, a season low for the opening frame. ... The Bulls are now 4-5 on the second night of back-to-backs.

Grizzlies: Gasol made a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, marking 17 games this season he has made multiple shots from outside the arc. ... Memphis made 11 3-pointers in the game and has converted at least 10 3s in 20 games this season, including 11 of the last 14 games.

MLK HOLIDAY

This is the 15th season Memphis has hosted a game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. The Grizzlies are 6-9 in the holiday game.

In recognition of the holiday, Memphis wore special MLK50 Pride uniforms. The black jerseys have sea foam blue numbers, letters and piping with the full T-shirt look instead of the normal sleeveless. The piping replicated the railing in front the rooms at the Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated in 1968, and the blue color was similar to the doors on the rooms.

MISSING WADE

Wade's absence meant missing a reunion with Memphis coach David Fizdale. Both left the Miami Heat organization after last season - Wade signing with the Bulls and Fizdale getting his first head coaching job in Memphis. Fizdale said he is sort of a "basketball romantic" and would like to have seen Wade retire in Miami. But he predicted after the player's career "his statue will be out front and (Wade) will be remembered as the great player that he should be."

UP NEXT

Bulls: Return home to face the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night.

Grizzlies: Memphis travels to Washington to face the Wizards on Wednesday night.