The rivalry is renewed as two central division teams face off when the Chicago Bulls travel to Indiana to take on the Indiana Pacers. Obviously the hype of the game will be how the return of Bulls guard Derek Rose will play a factor in the rivalry. Pacers took three out of four from the Bulls last season without Rose, but they are hoping that Rose will help them tilt the series in their favor this year.
Rose has had one of the most anticipated returns in the entire NBA. The Pacers last year easily took the division with Rose watching on the sideline the entire year. Now Rose is poised to make his presence felt in the first game of the year between their heated rivals. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the game, but the real difference in the outcome will be whoever wins the bench battle.
Both teams seem to have overall the best all-around starting lineups in the entire NBA. With these two teams, a different player could lead them in scoring on any given night. The only thing to watch in the starting lineup is Pacers guard Lance Stephenson who will probably be handling the Rose duties. This could be interesting because Rose has never seen Stephenson on the court, who is much improved this year on both ends. However, the starting five are so evenly matched with the Pacers’ starters averaging 73 points per game while the Bulls are averaging 70 that the bench will be the difference in this ball game.
So far this season the Pacers’ hard offseason work to improve their bench has been ineffective. The bench still continues to struggle early in the season, but this game is where they have to make a statement. The Bulls’ bench currently averages 24 points per game and the Pacers are averaging 20. This is the game where the bench must emerge in order for the Pacers to remain undefeated on the year.
Justin Logan is an Indiana Pacers writer for Rant Sports. Like him on Facebook.