The Indiana Pacers are one of the NBA's premier defensive squads. They've been particularly dominant at home this season, where they've strung together their biggest winning streak in 10 years.
Indiana can win its 14th straight home game on Monday night when it hosts the Chicago Bulls - the league's top road team that will again be short-handed - in a matchup of the East's two best defenses.
The 13-game winning streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is the longest for the Pacers since they won 14 in a row from Nov. 28, 2002-Jan. 26, 2003.
The Pacers (28-19) are 18-3 on their home floor. Their stingy defense is giving up 89.8 points per game but has been even better at home, limiting opponents to 86.9 points. Only one team - San Antonio - has scored in triple digits in regulation play at Indiana this season, and the Pacers have held 11 of their last 13 opponents there under 90 points.
They haven't lost at Bankers Life since a Dec. 7 defeat to Denver, and their win streak continued with Friday's 102-89 victory against the Heat.
"We want to be dominant at home, and we're getting there," coach Frank Vogel said.
Indiana's offense - still waiting for Danny Granger's return sometime before the All-Star break - has struggled at times, averaging 92.0 ppg. But the Pacers are averaging 100.3 on 46.8 percent shooting over their last four home contests, and shot a season-high 55.7 percent against Miami.
David West scored 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting, hitting 11 straight shots at one point. West has emerged as a more prominent force in his second season with Indiana, averaging 17.0 points this season after scoring 12.8 per game in 2011-12.
"He has a way of giving us contagious confidence," Vogel said. "He goes out there and he has that look in his eyes that kind of carries over to everyone else like we're not going to be beat tonight."
The Bulls (29-18) have a 14-7 mark outside the United Center and are the only team in the league with a better road record than at home. Saturday's 93-76 win at Atlanta was their seventh in their last nine road games, though they did it with Kirk Hinrich, Carlos Boozer and first time All-Star Joakim Noah all out due to injuries.
Hinrich is expected to miss a week after having an infection cleaned out of his right elbow in Chicago on Saturday. Boozer is day-to-day with a right hamstring injury, though coach Tom Thibodeau said he could play in this game. Noah said before Monday's shootaround that he did not expect to play due to plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
The Bulls' defense, allowing 90.6 points per game, has held nine straight opponents under 94. Luol Deng tallied 25 points and 14 rebounds Saturday, while Nate Robinson chipped in 20 points. Taj Gibson supplied 19 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, stepping up significantly in the absence of Noah and Boozer.
"I just went out there and did my job," Gibson told the team's official website. The fourth-year forward is averaging 7.6 points and 5.3 rebounds in 21.9 minutes. " ... The guys believe in me. They know what I can do. I did this when Carlos and Jo went down in the past."
Chicago will look to take better care of the basketball this time as after committing 19 turnovers in an 80-76 home loss to Indiana on Dec. 4. Paul George scored a career-high 34 points for the Pacers.
Monday's game is a makeup for a contest originally scheduled for Dec. 26, but was canceled because of a blizzard. It sets the Pacers up for the first game of the only back-to-back-to-back stretch in the NBA this season as they host Atlanta on Tuesday and travel to Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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