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Pacers Return to Action with Win Over the Hawks, Bulls Seek Victory Against the Raptors

The NBA has returned to action after the All-Star Break and the Indiana Pacers (41-12) got off to a rousing start.

On Tuesday night, the Pacers defeated the slumping Atlanta Hawks (25-27) 108-98. After starting the first half of the season with 16 of 17 wins, Indiana seeks to exceed that in the second half. Roy Hibbert said via CBS Sports after the game, “We want to peak towards the end of the season and we’re on our way. The last 20 games, we want to play our best ball.”

Paul George

Paul George

For the night, Paul George led in scoring with 26 points (four 3’s), followed by David West’s 17 points and Lance Stephenson’s 13. The team also capitalized on the Hawks’ 22 turnovers by getting 35 points from them and started the game out with a quick 22-5 lead.

The Pacers have now defeated the Hawks for a second of three times in this season. But they’re not the only team that keeps defeating the Hawks, who have lost six straight games.

On Tuesday, Kyle Korver scored 19 points to lead the team with 15 points coming from 3-pointers while Lou Williams contributed 18 points.

Adding to the Hawks’ woes is the injury bug. Forward DeMarre Carroll missed a second consecutive game thanks to a hamstring strain while center Gustavo Ayon, who started in Tuesday’s game, left during the first half from a right shoulder injury and didn’t return to action after that.

With the trade deadline nearing, you have to wonder if Atlanta will take any action. The only rumors circulating appear to be surrounding Jeff Teague but the team has been pretty quiet.

As for the Pacers with their 41-12 record, there will likely not be any trade action and this may come from the team undergoing its best start in its franchise history. For the five times the team has reached 35 wins or more in the season’s first 53 games, it has led to good things: three of the last four times they’ve gone to the Eastern Conference Finals, according to ESPN stats.

It’s a busy week for the Pacers as they’ll again play on Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves (25-28) and the Milwaukee Bucks (10-43) on Saturday. Against Minnesota, Vegas doesn’t have the odds yet but looking ahead to the postseason, the Pacers are 11/4 to win the 2014 NBA Championship.

In other Central Division action, the Chicago Bulls (27-25) who sit 13 1/2 games behind the Pacers for the second spot, have won three straight games as they entered the break and will look for win No. 4 on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors (29-24).

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah

The Bulls, fourth in the Eastern Conference, have being finding success from their defense in their recent win streak and will look to continue with it in the second half. The team has produced an 82.3 point average, second in the league, while enabling opponents to shoot 43.4 percent, also tops in the NBA. This has them above .500 even as a non-division leader in their conference–something that can’t be said of the other teams, according to ESPN.

The team will enter the game well rested as Joakim Noah was its only player to participate in the All-Star game. He had a good run, contributing eight points with five rebounds and five assists for his team. His teammate Carlos Boozer will enter the game as the Bulls’ leading scorer with a 14.8-point average while Noah, in the game’s recent streak, has averaged 17.7 points (57.1 percent shooting) and 14.0 rebounds.

The Raptors will enter the game as the Atlantic Division leader and also with a three-game win streak with a 105-point average. They returned from the break and defeated the Washington Wizards (25-28) 103-93 on Tuesday with 56.8 percent shooting from the field–a season high.

The Bulls want to hit the ground running as they look toward the playoffs but the Raptors will get the the win on Wednesday (-2.5, 183 o/u).


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