If you asked ten people to script the worst possible first week of a season for an NBA team, most of them would likely use the 2023 Chicago Bulls as a reference point. Despite being 1-2 after the first week, the Chicago Bulls have received a lot of negative attention for their players-only meeting after game one or their strange overtime win against the Raptors. After a tumultuous week, the Bulls will start week two on the road in Indiana, and I think the Pacers offense could run them out of the gym.
Scoring has been at a premium for the Indiana Pacers through their first two games, as their (128.2) offensive efficiency rating is the best in the league. Indiana has made it clear they want to maximize the amount of offensive possessions they can get, so they are currently playing at the 4th highest pace and averaging the most fast break points per game with 23.5.
Indiana has been a dominant force both inside the paint and beyond the arc on offense, leading the league with an average of 61 points in the paint per game while also getting 39.2% of their points from three. In their most recent win over the Cavs, the Pacers managed 62 points in the paint, while Tyrese Haliburton and Aaron Nesmith went a combined 9-16 from deep.
While it’s great to be the best offense in the league, Indiana has shown some apparent defensive issues that could get them in trouble on cold shooting nights. Entering tonight, the Pacers rank 17th in defensive rating at (111.5) and have allowed the opponents to shoot 38.2% from deep. The good news for them tonight, though, is that they will be playing a Bulls team that is 22nd in offensive rating.
In Chicago’s most recent game against the Pistons, Zach Lavine went off for 51 points, yet the Bulls would only score 102 in the game and ended up losing by 16. Thanks to that losing effort, Chicago ranks dead last in the league in true shooting percentage at 49.5%, and to give an idea of how out of sorts the Bulls offense has been, 47.8% of their made field goals have been unassisted, which is the 4th highest percentage through the first week.
Looking to open the year 3-0, the Indiana Pacers are currently listed as (-3) point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. This is a matchup between one of the fastest-paced teams and one of the slowest, but with the way Chicago has played, I don’t think they can dictate the tempo, so they’ll be forced to play at the Pacers' preferred pace.
If there were ever a game the Bulls could find offensive success, it would be tonight against the Pacers' defense, but at the end of the day, I still think Indiana can do enough offensively to cover this game. Chicago has allowed an effective field goal percentage of 59.1% through three games, and with the way Indiana has been scoring, they look to be due for another big night on that end of the floor.
Bulls opponents have averaged 28 assists per game, and not only is that the 6th most in the league, but it plays into the strengths of the Pacers. Indiana leads the league in assisted field goals made at 71.2% and has a point guard in Tyrese Haliburton, who is averaging ten assists per game in his last three games against the Bulls. Chicago has yet to cover a game this season, and I don’t see that changing tonight.
Indiana Pacers (-3) (-112)