INDIANAPOLIS — The burning questions facing Indiana are whether Victor Oladipo will play against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night — and whether that will provide the spark the Pacers need.
The Pacers have lost five in a row, the past four without Oladipo, who is sidelined with a sore right knee. Oladipo practiced Thursday and Friday, but Indiana coach Nate McMillan said it is a game-time decision whether he will play.
“It’s just like anyone else, you are trying to work on timing,” McMillan said of Oladipo. “He’s been able to do that the last two days in practice, going through a lot of practice. He’ll have to continue to do that once he gets in a game, but he has been able to go through live contact.”
There is no question the Pacers miss Oladipo, who averages a team-high 24.9 points. Indiana forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who is shooting just 37.7 percent in the last five games, also is listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle.
The Pacers (19-19) lost to the Bulls (14-25) 119-107 on Dec. 29. The Bulls hit 18 3-pointers in that game. The win against the Pacers was the Bulls’ 10th in 12 games. Since then, Chicago had dropped three in a row before rebounding to beat host Dallas 127-124 Friday night. Point guard Kris Dunn scored a career-high 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting and delivered nine assists to lead Chicago. The Bulls, who trailed 88-80, scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told the Chicago Tribune he had a pregame chat with Dunn.
“I brought him in my office and I said, ‘Listen, I’m going to start giving you some added responsibility. You’re becoming a guy who as you go, we go. I’m going to let you control the offense, so you’re not looking over your shoulder for play calls.’ ”
Bulls shooting guard Justin Holiday, who scored 23 against the Mavericks, said that was what he expects from Dunn.
“He’s going to come with it,” Holiday said.
Holiday was optimistic the Bulls were still on the right track after losses to Washington, Portland and Toronto.
“Obviously, even though we lost these games, we are not playing like we were (earlier in the season),” Holiday told Bulls.com prior to playing Dallas. “We’re not as bad as we were. That’s on both ends. Even though we lost these games, we are in these games, teams are respecting us when they play us and we’re fighting back. But sometimes we have lulls.”
There have been few positives for the Pacers of late.
“It hasn’t been pretty,” McMillan said. “It hasn’t felt good. It’s not so much getting beat, it’s how you get beat. We’re not playing with that energy, that effort, that sense of urgency, that connection we were playing with a month ago. We’ve got to get back to that.”
McMillan doesn’t want to use Oladipo’s absence as an excuse.
“I know we haven’t been ourselves,” he said. “I can’t put my finger on the reason for that. We haven’t had that energy at certain positions in the first group.”
McMillan pointed out the Pacers got in another big hole early in Wednesday’s 122-101 loss at Milwaukee.
“It’s been a challenge to the team,” he said. “They know what we expect of them. If we’re not getting that, then we’ll give some other guys opportunity.”