Team Records: Indiana (7-11) at Portland (13-4)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -8.5
Refs: Scott Foster, Curtis Blair, Leroy Richardson
The Skinny: After escaping from Denver with a last minute win due to a shot by Rolo, the Blazers face the struggling Pacers at home. The Pacers, who lost Paul George to an injury in a USA basketball scrimmage this summer, have done perhaps better than would have been feared. This is the last home game before Portland leaves on a five game road trip that ends in just over a week against these same Pacers at their place.
Last Season: The two teams split the season series. The Blazers have won the last five straight against the Pacers at home while the Pacers have won the last four straight against Portland back in Indianapolis.
Projected Pacers Lineup:
PF: David West (Xavier, 12th season) – 14 PPG, 6 RPG, 2.3 APG
SF: Solomon Hill (Arizona, 2nd season)- 11.4 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.8 APG
C: Roy Hibbert (Georgetown, 7th season) – 13.2 PPG, 8 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG: Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington, 8th season) – 12.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.3 APG
PG: Donald Sloan (Texas A&M, 4th season) – 11.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 5 APG
Player to Watch: Roy Hibbert (pictured at right) – There was a time a few years ago when Hibbert seemed poised to jump into NBA super-stardom. In 2012, Hibbert was arguably one of the two or three best centers in the NBA, and although he’s cooled a bit from that, he’s still pretty darn good. Hibbert is an excellent shot blocker on defense and generally solid on that end of the court, although he does have a tendency to reach and commit silly fouls way too often. Hibbert’s disappearance towards the back half of last season and during much of the playoffs was puzzling as he was functionally benched at times during Indiana’s playoff run. He ended his season okay against Miami but has struggled this year with the same lack of focus and consistency at times. Still, he has been playing well as of late and is clearly a force to be reckoned with.
Did you Know?: When he was 13 years old, future Pacers head coach Frank Vogel appeared on the “Stupid Human Tricks” segment of the David Letterman show for his ability to spin a basketball on the end of a toothbrush while brushing his teeth with the same toothbrush at the same time. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find video of this online.
Song of the Day: “Back Home Again in Indiana” by Ballard MacDonald and James F. Hanley-Sometimes you just have to go with a classic. This is one of those times. Enjoy:
Portland: Out –PG CJ McCollum (Finger), Questionable-Will Barton (Illness)
Indiana: Out – SF Paul George (Tibia/Fibia), PG George Hill (Knee)
It was all going so well for the Pacers for much of last year. They were arguably the best team in the league, with a stiffing defense and a good enough offense, the Pacers seemed destined to finally take out Miami in the playoffs. Then things began to go horribly horribly wrong for them, and it reached a crisis point in the playoffs as the Pacers were lucky to get out of the first two rounds. Things only got worse from there as Paul George suffered a gruesome injury in a USA basketball exhibition. Still, the Pacers have some impressive wins this year, and some equally bad losses. The Pacers are not a good offensive team, but neither are they a top defensive team this year. They win, when they do, by making lots of 3 pointers and playing good enough defense to hold off some teams. They will have to hope they are hot from deep Thursday if they want a chance to win.
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.