Team Records: Indiana (16-1) at Portland (14-3)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Indiana -1
Refs: Danny Crawford, David Guthrie, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: After holding on for dear life to beat the Lakers on Sunday, the Blazers return home to begin a tough four game home-stand against the team with the NBA’s best record, the Pacers. Indiana has lost only once this year, to the Bulls, although only three of those games have been against teams with winning records (no doubt due in part to the weak Eastern conference). Still, this is a tough test for the Blazers and easily the most daunting home matchup so far this year.
Last Season: The two teams split the season series. The Blazers home won the last four straight against the Pacers at home while the Pacers have won the last three straight against Portland back in Indianapolis.
Projected Pacers Lineup:
PF: David West (Xavier, 11th season) – 11.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.7 APG
SF: Paul George (Fresno State, 4th season) – 23.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 3.3 APG
C: Roy Hibbert (Georgetown, 6th season) – 11.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.1 APG
SG: Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati, 4th season) – 12.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 5.2 APG
PG: George Hill (IUPUI, 6th season) – 12.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.7 APG
Player to Watch: Paul George (pictured at right) – There were many who may have wondered what exactly Indiana was thinking when they selected Paul George in the 2010 NBA draft. Turns out the Pacers knew exactly what they were doing. George has fast become one of the NBA’s most exciting young stars. This season he has taken off like crazy, posting career highs by a fairly wide margin in almost every statistical category and generally continuing the meteoric rise many NBA fans saw for the first time in last year’s playoffs. On offense, George is deadly from almost everywhere on the court and can explode seemingly at will. On defense, George has continued to grow into a solid defender. Much will be expected of Paul George in years to come and the recent evidence gives plenty of reason to believe he will deliver on those lofty expectations.
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 (Foot)
Indiana: Out – SF Danny Granger (Calf)
The Pacers are never going to blow the world away with their offense, ranking squarely in the middle of the pack in offensive efficiency. Here’s the thing though? They don’t have to because they play such amazing defense, posting the best defensive efficiency in the league by a wide margin. The Pacers are often not entertaining to watch, they just make life difficult for you when you’re on offense and do enough when they have the ball to win, mostly comfortably. Yesterday’s game vs. the Clippers was only the second time all year they’ve allowed 100 points. They are a tough team to face for anyone and will provide a stern test for the Blazers Monday.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They score 100 points. This is not going to be an easy task but if they can manage to do it, they will almost certainly walk out with a win.
Indiana wins if: They record at least 20 assists. When the Pacers are doing well, it is the result of team offense and not iso one on one play. If they hit the 20 assist mark, that will be a good sign they are flowing on offense and should come with the win.