Team Records: Portland (17-6) at Indiana (7-16)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -5
Refs: Joe Crawford, Steve Anderson, Matt Boland
The Skinny: The Blazers travel to Indy in search of a 3-2 road trip and their first win in the circle city in five years. The Pacers have now lost seven straight going into Saturday’s matchup. Indiana has only two wins over teams with winning records so far this year.
Last Time They Met: In a game highlighted by the crash of the Ford blimp before the game, it wasn’t exactly a pretty win for Portland but it was an 88-82 home victory. Lillard scored 23 to lead the way for Portland.
Projected Pacers Lineup:
PF: David West (Xavier, 12th season) – 11.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 2.4 APG
SF: Chris Copeland (Colorado, 3rd season)- 11 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG
C: Roy Hibbert (Georgetown, 7th season) – 11.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG: Solomon Hill (Arizona, 2nd season)- 10.9 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.1 APG
PG: Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington, 8th season) – 12.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.8 APG
Player to Watch: David West (pictured at right) – There was a time a few years ago when there was a legit debate as to whether LMA or David West was the better player. The battle is over now, and LMA is clearly superior but until this year West was a fine player. West is one of the league’s most consistent pick and pop threats, with an improving passing game and is basically just a reliable presence. On defense, West is a very good player and typically does a decent job against top level opponents. This year, however, West has seen his shooting numbers drop substantially. Whether that is because he is in the twilight of his career, he’s going through a bad start, or suffering from more attentive defense in George’s absence is anyone’s guess. He has to get back on track if the Pacers hope to make a playoff run. Oh and Robin Lopez doesn’t much like him.
Did you Know?: The Pacers have been outscored in the first quarter 15 times this season, and are just 3-12 in those games.
Song of the Day: “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” by Drowning Pool-In honor of how I expect this team to play on Sunday, all out going for the kill. Enjoy:
Portland: Out –PG CJ McCollum (Finger)
Indiana: Out – SF Paul George (Tibia/Fibia), PG George Hill (Knee), C Ian Mahimi (Foot)
Re-Evaluating Indiana: The Importance of Team Culture
It is no secret that a big part of Portland’s success the past year plus is that the team has good chemistry. Most winning teams do, and those that don’t can only win if they are really really talented (which rarely happens). The Pacers had such chemistry for much of the past few years, and they had a singular goal, getting past Miami in the playoffs. They certainly came close a few times and played above their talent level against the Heat in their 2012 and 2013 playoff exits. Yet, that team culture went away late last season and hasn’t come back. Whether it is due to injuries, frustration at not taking the next step or something else, the Pacers need to get it back if they are to win. Winning without their best player this year was always going to be a challenge but this Pacers team has to start playing like a team or it’ll be a lottery trip for them.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They score 100 points. The Pacers are not a good offensive team. If the Blazers can hit triple digits, they will win.
Indiana wins if: They make lots of 3s. The only way to keep up with Portland’s potent offense is for the Pacers to make lots of outside shots as well. If they can make a lot of 3s, they certainly have a chance at a win.