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Pacers Take on the Knicks, Bulls Seek Road Win Against the 76ers

It was a winless night for the NBA’s Central Division on Tuesday but on Wednesday, they’ll have two chances when the Chicago Bulls take on the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers play the New York Knicks.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are dominating headlines as King James returned home to play his former team and scored 43 points for the night–25 in the first quarter. Perhaps some of this was prompted by Dwyane Wade’s absence but the Cavaliers also gave it their best shot in a gritty game without Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng. Dion Waiters fortunately showed up, scoring 17 points with 11 assists.

With the 100-96 loss, Cleveland (26-42) is now six games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot.

On Wednesday, the division-(and conference-leading) Pacers (50-17) will seek to extend their four-game win streak against the Knicks (27-40). A new era has started for New York with the hiring of Phil Jackson as the team’s president. Before a lot of change comes, the team will keep their heads down as they also chase the final playoff spot.

Should they get there, they’ll again face the Pacers, who have an advantage over the Miami Heat for the No. 1 seed.

Lance Stephenson

Lance Stephenson

While the Pacers already know a postseason lies ahead, they’ll also enter Madison Square Garden confidently as they’ve already defeated the Knicks twice this season. This includes a 106-96 OT win (Nov. 20) amid a Carmelo Anthony 30-point night with 18 rebounds, followed by the 117-89 victory (Jan. 16) where Lance Stephenson scored his season-high 28 points.

He continues to have high scoring games such as the 25 point-game on Monday against the lowly 76ers in a 99-90 win. Stephenson has a 14.1 point average but seems to have a turnover problem: 18 in his five previous games. 

The player said of them (five against the 76ers) via STATS LLC, “I’m just being aggressive, taking the open shots. I had a good field-goal percentage, but I forced a lot of turnovers that I had. I got to take care of the ball better.”

Sure the Pacers are riding a win streak, but not all of their recent victories have come easily. Last Saturday in their 112-104 OT win over the Detroit Pistons, they had to rebound from a 25-point deficit and that nine-point win over the 76ers is a little alarming.

The Knicks have more to play for in this game but seeking the top seed and a team record for victories is a lot of motivation for the Pacers. Indiana gets another tight win (-3, 194.5 o/u).

As for the 76ers (15-52), it’s been a rough week as they set history with a club record for consecutive losses, surpassing the previous number by the 1972-73 team. They sit tied with the Pistons for the sixth-greatest slide (21 games) in NBA history.

With another loss against the Bulls (37-30) on Wednesday, they’ll hit loss No. 22 for a team record. They’ll try to focus on a positive for the game which is a win–a first one since Jan. 29.

Good luck as they finally moved past the 40 percent shooting mark on Monday (43.2 percent) and they don’t play well at home (16 straight losses). However, they know the Bulls are beatable as they defeated them on Nov.2, 107-104–at home.

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah

But once the Bulls returned to their home court for a rematch on Jan. 18 for a 103-78 win, they shot 48.8 percent with 52 rebounds while holding the 76ers off in their 3-pointers (2-of-19). Joakim Noah had a good game with 21 points, 16 boards and four blocks.

Expect him to again show up on Wednesday, especially after his disappointing nine points and 12 rebounds against Oklahoma City on Monday in a 97-85 loss.

The Bulls went 3-3 on their recent homestand and will look for better play on the road. It will begin on Wednesday with a win (-12.5, 195 o/u).





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