Bulls vs. Pacers NBA Preview and Best Bet

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Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Bulls. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP

The Chicago Bulls head to Indiana to take on the Pacers. This game will tip off much earlier than usual for New Year’s Eve. The Bulls have won five in a row but are they the right NBA pick

Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers

Friday, December 31, 2021 – 03:00 PM EST at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Chicago Bulls 

The Chicago Bulls have won five games in a row, even without Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. It is the Bulls' first five-game winning streak since December 2017.  At 22-10, the Bulls are currently second in the standings for the Eastern Conference. Lonzo Ball will definitely miss the game but Alex Caruso is a game-time decision. If Caruso were to return, it would be a big boost for the Bulls, especially on the defensive end. 

The Bulls are led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan's veteran leadership has been key to the Bulls’ ability to make the leap from the lottery to the playoffs this season. DeMar DeRozan has an excellent feel for the game and he knows when to push the pace and when to slow down. DeMar DeRozan also has an excellent high percentage mid-range jump shot that the Bulls can rely on to beat even the best of half-court defenses. 

Nikola Vucevic has been playing better after a slow start to the season. Vucevic is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds per game. Vucevic is a post scorer who also brings the defense outside to respect his outside shooting. Yet his tenacious ability to rebound is where the Bulls have most needed him. Vucevic's strength in corralling defensive rebounds has made the Bulls' once woeful defense into an impressive outfit. 

Indiana Pacers 

The Pacers received more bad news as they found out that Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, and Isaiah Jackson will be joining Jeremy Lamb in the health and safety protocol. This leaves them very thin at guard. The Pacers will be relying on the recent G League call-up, Keifer Sykes. Sykes made his NBA debut against the Hornets on Wednesday night. The Pacers lost that game to Charlotte 116–108. That has been the Pacers’ third loss in the last four games. 

The Pacers are led by Domantas Sabonis, but he might be on the trade block. Sabonis averages 18 points and 12 rebounds per game. He is the leader on the offensive end. Sabonis can be attacked on defense, so it is incumbent on him to have a good night offensively. Sabonis can score in a variety of ways, and the Pacers will be running a majority of their offensive sets through him tonight. 

While Sabonis is the leader on the offensive end, center Myles Turner is the anchor for the Pacers on the defensive end. Turner has led the NBA in blocks twice in his career and he is leading the NBA again this season. Turner is averaging 2.8 blocks per game. Turner has a 103 defensive rating, which is the second-best of his career. Turner can space the floor as he is a capable 3-point shooter. As the Pacers season continues to be disappointing, Myles Turner will be a very attractive trade piece if the Pacers do decide to blow it up

With all the injuries at guard, Caris LeVert will take on a crucial role in creating offense today. LeVert can create off the dribble and should see a high amount of usage. LeVert averages 17.4 points per game, but I would not be surprised to see him go for 22+. LeVert could be an interesting option when looking at NBA props. 

Key Matchup 

Myles Turner vs. Nikola Vucevic 

The Bulls are very strong on the perimeter but Vucevic's presence in the middle means so much. If Myles Turner is able to neutralize Vucevic, the Bulls' offense could be very one-dimensional. With the Pacers missing multiple point guards, the Pacers will need a big contribution from Turner on the offensive end as well.

Vucevic is a gifted scorer, but he's not known for his defensive prowess. A big game from Myles Turner on both sides of the floor could be the difference in this one. If Turner does not have a big night, the Pacers will struggle to keep this one competitive. 

Best Bet 

I can’t trust the Pacers right now, and their point guard situation makes it even worse. The Bulls are the better team even if the Pacers were at full strength. With the Pacers having G League-level point guard play, they will have problems keeping pace with the Bulls. The Bulls will keep their win streak going. Lay the points. Take the Bulls and cash out at the top-rated sportsbooks.

NBA Pick: Chicago Bulls -5 (-110) with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Chicago Bulls -5 (-110)
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