Pacers put perfect record on the line in Chicago
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Indiana Pacers will try to go 10-0 on the season Saturday night with a stiff road test against their Central Division rivals, the Chicago Bulls.
The Pacers became the first NBA team to open a season 9-0 since the 2002-03 Dallas Mavericks, who began that campaign with 14 straight victories, on Friday night. They crushed the Milwaukee Bucks, 104-77 at home.
Indiana ranks first in the NBA in opponents' scoring and first in opponents' field-goal percentage. The 77 points allowed against the Bucks was the second- fewest the Pacers surrendered all season.
Roy Hibbert was sensational on Friday with 24 points on 8-for-10 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line. He pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked eight shots.
"Our probability of winning a game should be 100 percent when Roy's playing at that level, offensively he's a load and defensively still remaining the best defensive big in this league," Paul George said of Hibbert.
George scored 22 points and Lance Stephenson added 11 for the Pacers.
Only three of Indiana's wins this season have been on the road, so Saturday's contest might be the toughest yet. The Pacers beat Chicago by 17 on Nov. 6, but that was at home.
The Bulls are playing better of late and still remain one of the league's most formidable defensive squads. They rank second to the Pacers in the aforementioned categories and demolished the Toronto Raptors on the road Friday night, 96-80.
Chicago hasn't allowed an opponent 100 points in its last four games. The victory on Friday was more impressive considering Derrick Rose sat with a groin strain.
"Just being smart about the situation," Rose said.
His availability for Saturday's game has not been determined, but the Bulls certainly didn't need him against the Raptors. (To be fair, the Raptors aren't the Pacers.)
Kirk Hinrich started in Rose's place and scored 12 points. All five Bulls starters scored in double figures led by 19 from Luol Deng. Joakim Noah added 18 and Jimmy Butler and Carlos Boozer had 14 apiece.
"I like the rhythm we had," head coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We know with Derrick out we have to play a certain way. We need everybody. That's why it's a team. He's (Rose) the leader of our team. He runs the offense and we expect him to play good defense. But Kirk proved last year that he's more than capable of running the team."
Hinrich started most of last season with Rose on the shelf rehabbing from a torn ACL.
The Bulls play the Charlotte Bobcats at home on Monday, then head west for their annual circus road trip. Chicago will be gone for six straight games.
The Pacers have won four of their last five against the Bulls, including the victory earlier this season.
11/16 10:15:05 ET