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updated: 4/1/2014 8:34 PM

Shooting for Pacers might be Bulls' best bet

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  • Forward Paul George and the Indiana Pacers have fallen on hard times of late, dropping to the second seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.

    Forward Paul George and the Indiana Pacers have fallen on hard times of late, dropping to the second seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time this season.
    Associated Press


A week ago, there was legitimate debate about which playoff seed might work out best for the Bulls.

A rematch with Brooklyn in the first round would mean facing the hottest team in the East since Jan. 1, but also a team that hasn't done well against the Bulls.

Washington would be a less-experienced playoff opponent but with some dangerous talent.

At this point, the answer seems clear: While the first round will be a challenge regardless, whatever seed gives the Bulls the best chance to face Indiana in the second round looks like the preferred spot.

It's possible the Pacers could snap out of their funk sometime in the next few weeks. But they've made a quick shift from scrappy title contenders to finger-pointing, bickering Real Housewives of Indianapolis.

Indiana was 46-13 on March 2 and has gone 6-10 since. The Pacers have scored fewer than 80 points in five of their last six games, unprecedented for a team with 50 wins.

Accusations of selfish play have become a common occurrence, and those continued after Monday's blowout loss to San Antonio, which dropped Indiana to the No. 2 spot in the East for the first time all season.

"We've got to concede that we haven't played basketball well enough to deserve the top spot," said David West, according to the Indy Star News. "That's pretty much it. We haven't been a good-looking basketball team for quite some time now. That's on the guys in this locker room."

"We're not playing the game the right way right now," Paul George added. "We're not playing for one another. It's tough to score on any team in this league when you're trying to do it against the whole team."

Blame for the slide has gone in several directions. Maybe the Pacers couldn't deal with the trade of longtime teammate Danny Granger. Maybe shooting guard Lance Stephenson is trying too hard to earn a big offer in free agency this summer. Maybe Indiana just didn't know how to handle success once it arrived.

George, an MVP candidate early this season, shot 37.2 percent from the field in March. Center Roy Hibbert shot 42.2 percent from the field last month, while averaging just 4.6 rebounds.

The mirror might be the best place to point fingers.

"We've had plenty of players-only meetings," Hibbert said. "We've had plenty of sit-downs with the team and coaches, some with upper management listening in. Maybe we should all go to group therapy."

Of course, the Pacers still can point to some bright spots during their slump. The used a 19-0 run in the third quarter to beat the Bulls 91-79 on March 21, then knocked off the Heat five days later.

Indiana could snap out of this slide at the snap of a finger. From the Bulls' perspective, though, grabbing that No. 3 seed might be the best opportunity for a longer playoff run.

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