Pregame: Bulls — Noah Out, Keeping Belinelli In Check
CHICAGO — Both the Pacers and Chicago Bulls are already without their top player in Danny Granger and Derrick Rose, respectively. The Pacers will be without the services of David West (back) tonight for the fourth-straight game and the Bulls will also be missing yet another important piece.
Joakim Noah, who made his first All-Star appearance this season, will not play because of a sore foot. He averages 12.1 points, 11.4 rebounds and four assists per game; he’ll be replaced by Nazr Mohammed in the starting lineup.
“One less thing to worry about,” Vogel said of the news. “He’s not a guy that you necessarily game plan for. Obviously, anytime you’re playing them, he’s the first guy you think about in terms of their No. 1 warrior. He leads them in collective will and determination.”
A guy to keep tabs will be guard Marco Belinelli. He’s given the Pacers trouble in the last two meetings, scoring a combined 44 points. He has started in each of the previous 10 games for Richard Hamilton, who is dealing with a lower back injury.
“He’s a tough guy to guard,” Vogel explained. “Every time that we play them, even when he was with New Orleans, we knew that he is an elite offensive player. He shoots the heck out of the basketball, has a great feel, knows how to … use screens. It’s a challenging propositition for Lance Stephenson, who’s just getting into the rotation this year.”
If the Pacers can pull out a win tonight at the United Center, which would be their second of the year, their number to clinch the division crown would shrink to six games. It would also give the Pacers their first sweep of the season series since the 2001-02 season. Winning the division was near the top of the team’s goals entering the season.
“Rivalry talk is more for the media and the fans. They’re the Central Division champs and the team that we’ve been chasing for a couple of years so I think there’s a little more importance and a little different feeling when we play the Chicago Bulls or the Miami Heat — teams that have knocked us out in the playoffs the last couple of years.”