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- Carlos Boozer will return to the lineup tonight for the Bulls after missing the previous three games with a right hamstring injury. Joakim Noah (right foot) and Kirk Hinrich (right elbow) both will miss their third straight games. Nate Robinson will start at the point for Hinrich with Taj Gibson in Noah’s spot in the middle.
- Gibson has taken full advantage of the additional playing time created by the absences of Noah and Boozer, averaging 16.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.67 blocks in the last three, including a 19-point, 19-rebound outing Saturday in Atlanta. Jimmy Butler also has surged of late, averaging 14.9 points and .505 shooting in the last 10 games.
- Though this is the first of three games in three nights for the Pacers, Coach Frank Vogel isn’t taking a long view. “We haven’t even talked about (the schedule),” he said. “This is a very important game for us so we’re approaching it like it’s the only game of the week.” The game originally was scheduled for Dec. 26 but was postponed by a blizzard in Indianapolis. As a result, the Pacers now have the only three-game, three-night set in the NBA this season. It’s less of an inconvenience for the Bulls, who have two nights off before their next game Thursday in Denver. The Pacers host the Hawks Tuesday and travel to Philadelphia Wednesday.
- The Bulls bring the best road record in the NBA (14-7) into Bankers Life Fieldhouse, including a 13-3 mark against Eastern Conference teams. What makes them so good on the road? “I don’t know,” Vogel said, “but I’m interested in the formula.” Indiana is 10-16 on the road.
- Just in case the Pacers might view the shorthanded Bulls as something less than a formidable opponent, Vogel showed extensive film from Chicago’s 93-76 thrashing of the Hawks as evidence of just how hard, and well, the Bulls played. “We know whoever’s in uniform,” he said, “they’re going to bring it for the Chicago Bulls.”
- Conrad Brunner