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The Indiana Pacers took a 89-85 victory over the Chicago Bulls in Game 4 of their NBA Eastern Conference opening round series to avoid the sweep, and they’ll face another ‘must win’ game on Tuesday night at the United Center. The big question in advance of Tuesday’s Game 5 concerns the condition of Chicago’s superstar guard Derek Rose—Rose sprained his ankle in the Game 4 loss and although he stayed in the game has been wearing a ‘walking boot’ ever since. He’s scheduled for a MRI on Monday and it’s not hyperbole to suggest that the outcome of that examination will determine just how far the Bulls will be able to advance in the NBA playoffs.
Rose’s ability to play in Game 5 obviously will make a huge difference in the Pacers’ chances, but they haven’t performed very well against Chicago in recent years. Since 2008, Indiana is 5-11 SU against the Bulls and their performance at the United Center has been even more dismal—the Pacers are 0-8 SU during that timeframe on Chicago’s home court. The pointspread series has been more competitive, though Chicago holds a 9-7 ATS advantage overall and a 5-3 ATS advantage at the United Center.
Assuming that Rose’s ankle injury isn’t anything series—and that’s a big assumption—the Bulls are definitely one of the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference. Chicago’s offense is decent and they’ve got some ‘go to’ scoring threats including Rose and former Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, but their real strength is on the defensive end.  The Bulls were among the league leaders in team defense all season long, eventually finishing the regular season ranked #2 in that category just .2 point behind top ranked Boston. The Bulls’ strong team defense will make them competitive throughout the playoffs even if Rose can’t play but his health is the difference between being ‘competitive’ and being a ‘contender’. 
Obviously, it’s hard to take a strong position against the spread until more is known about Rose’s status but even with him in the lineup we just think Chicago is overvalued here. As a defensive oriented team, they’re not able to drop huge margins against opponents at will. Despite their 3-1 SU advantage in the series the Pacers hold a 3-1 ATS advantage in the series—in fact, Indiana is one point short of having covered all four contests. With or without Rose, we expect Chicago to win and advance but in either scenario we look for Indiana to keep it within the number.