Vogel focused on 'division championship'

February, 4, 2013
2/04/13
12:55
PM CT
Friedell By Nick Friedell
ESPNChicago.com
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Frank VogelRon Hoskins/Getty ImagesFrank Vogel's Pacers have won 13 straight home games heading into Monday's tilt with the Bulls.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Riding a 13-game home winning streak, the Indiana Pacers face a "Central Division championship" against the Chicago Bulls on Monday night, according to coach Frank Vogel.

"We're not interested in the streak really," Vogel said after Monday morning's shootaround. "We're just interested in winning the next game. This is a Central Division championship game right here. Who wins this division is going to be determined on the court, not by miscellaneous matchups around the league. I think the head-to-head matchups is going to decide this Central Division."

Pacers forward David West knows the importance of their game against the Bulls, who lead the Pacers by a game in the Central standings.

"We've got to do what we've got to do to beat them," West said. "They're the division leader, and they won it last year. We're fighting with them for playoff positioning, so we've just got to continue to fight. This is another game in front of us. We're going to do what what we have to do to try to get this win."

Vogel respects the way the Bulls have played all season despite dealing with several key injuries.

"You always want to play against the best, and I think they're one of the best even without Derrick Rose," Vogel said. "[Coach Tom Thibodeau] obviously does as good a job as anybody year in and year out, and I admire their style of play; the way they share the basketball, the way they play with physicality and the way they defend ... they're one of the most physical teams in the NBA one through five. They hit you; they hit first, ask questions later, and I admire their style."

Thibodeau wants his team to forget the way it performed in an impressive win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and pick up another win.

"That's gone, we got to be ready for tonight's game," Thibodeau said. "This is going to be a physical, intense battle. I don't want guys looking backwards, I want them looking ahead. We have to be ready for what's coming."

This game was originally supposed to be on Dec. 26 but was postponed because of a snowstorm. The new scheduling forces the Pacers to play games on three straight nights.

"We're in a pretty tough playoff race, and every game that we have in front of us is our most important game," West said. "We're going to have to dig deep these next three games. We've got three quality opponents. One team that's a decision foe, another team that we haven't had much success against in Atlanta and another place in Philly that's very tough to win on the road, so we don't know what we did to [tick] somebody off, but hey, man, we got to deal with it."

The respect between the teams is evident on both sides, with Thibodeau appreciating the way the Pacers have played without Danny Granger, who has been out all season with patellar tendinosis in his left knee. He was cleared to participate in full contact practice for the first time Thursday.

"We're hoping to get him into action before the All-Star break," Vogel said. "A lot still has to happen before then in terms of his progression with the workload that we're increasing every day, so we'll see if that's a possibility or not. ... He participated in a live practice the other day, looked pretty good, it's just a matter of increasing that workload."

Nick Friedell | email

Chicago Bulls beat reporter
Nick Friedell is the Chicago Bulls beat reporter for ESPN Chicago. Friedell is a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and joined ESPNChicago.com for its launch in April 2009.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jimmy Butler
PTS AST STL MIN
21.9 3.3 1.6 39.9
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 11.7
AssistsD. Rose 5.1
StealsJ. Butler 1.6
BlocksP. Gasol 2.0