The Indiana Pacers' longest home win streak in three months has helped them stay ahead of a contentious pack in the race for the Eastern Conference's final postseason berths.
The Chicago Bulls' road woes are one of the major reasons why they're currently out of playoff position and they'll try to aid their fading chances Tuesday night.
Indiana (39-34) pushed a half-game ahead of eighth-place Detroit with a 104-101 victory against Houston on Sunday, the Pacers' third in a row on their own floor. Paul George scored 16 of his 25 points in the opening period and Monta Ellis chipped in 23 in his team's third win in four overall contests.
The Pacers will next seek to match their four-game home win streak from Dec. 11-18 while taking another step toward their first playoff berth since 2013-14.
"It's a big game, probably the biggest game of the season for us right now," George said. "We have a chance to put a team away and give ourselves one more game up in the win column."
Indiana will get to face a scuffling Central Division rival in Chicago (36-37), which dropped 2 1/2 games behind Detroit with its fourth straight defeat Monday, 102-100 to Atlanta. The Bulls rallied from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter but couldn't keep themselves from falling under .500 for the first time since they were 24-25 on Feb. 6, 2014.
"We just fell a little bit short. There are going to be games like this where we play hard and compete, and still end up with a loss. But I like that we competed tonight," point guard Derrick Rose said. "We've just go to keep it up. We know it's going to be hard. We're still fighting. We're still trying to find our rhythm."
Chicago's chances of breaking out of its funk and avoiding a tie of its longest skid this season - from Feb. 5-18 - don't appear promising. The Bulls have lost 11 of 12 on the road, losing to also-rans New York and Orlando in their last two away from Chicago.
The team reportedly held a meeting after a 111-89 drubbing to the Magic on Saturday. The Bulls have yielded an average of 110.1 points in their last 15 road games and will play six of their final nine there.
"Keep hope alive. We know that we're in tough times right now," Rose said. "We know that we still have nine games to go and we need everybody. ... We're trying to figure things out."
Chicago has lost in six of its last seven visits to Indiana and suffered a 104-92 defeat there Nov. 27. The Bulls have won three of four overall against the Pacers, needing Jimmy Butler's alley opp layup with 1.2 seconds left in overtime for a 102-100 victory Dec. 30.
Butler finished with 28 points and Aaron Brooks, averaging 7.2, had a season-high 29 with Rose out because of an ailing hamstring. George was held to 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting after scoring a combined 59 points in his first two matchups this season.