Team Records: Portland (35-14) at Indiana (38-10)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on CSNNW/ESPN, Radio on 620 AM
ESPN Announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Barry, and Heather Cox
Vegas Line: Indiana -5.5
Refs: Marc Davis, Derrick Collins, Brian Forte
The Skinny: After a narrow win over the Knicks Wednesday gave Portland their first road win since January 18, the Blazers continue their four-game road swing against the league-leading Pacers. Portland will be looking for their first win in Indianapolis in four years Friday night. The Pacers come into this game having won three straight and although they haven’t been playing as well as earlier this year they are still very tough to beat.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers overcame a career-high 43 points by Paul George as they won a thriller over the Pacers 106-102 in Portland. Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Lillard had 26 points to lead Portland in the victory.
Projected Pacers Lineup:
PF: David West (Xavier, 11th season) – 13.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.9 APG
SF: Paul George (Fresno State, 4th season) – 22.7 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG
C: Roy Hibbert (Georgetown, 6th season) – 12.2 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 APG
SG: Danny Granger (New Mexico, 9th season) – 8.6 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.2 APG
PG: George Hill (IUPUI, 6th season) – 10.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 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 very very 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. On offense Hibbert is okay at best, shooting only 46.6% from the floor, which for a big man is pretty low, although he does shoot a respectable 75% from the line. What has held Hibbert back, more than anything else, however, is his lack of rebounding for someone his size. Still, Hibbert is deservedly headed to his second All-Star game soon and, although he may not be the NBA’s best center, is just one tiny rung below that.
Did you Know?: The Pacers have already secured a winning record at home this season for the 25th year in a row, the longest active streak in the NBA.
Song of the Day: “Let It Snow” by Den Martin-In honor of Portland’s biggest snowstorm since 2008. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PG Mo Williams (Personal Reasons)
Indiana: Out-SG Lance Stephenson (Back)
Re-Evaluating Indiana: Attendance Doesn’t Match On-Court Performance
The Pacers have a good team but you sure wouldn’t know it by the tepid support of the Indiana fans. Despite being one of the NBA’s top title contenders, the Pacers are 16th in the NBA in attendance, averaging 17,188 fans per game. This ranks below such NBA bottom feeders as the Jazz and Celtics. This is largely a historical trend for Indiana, which has always struggled to sell out in a state which is dominated by high school and college basketball. Basketball might be the unofficial Indiana state sport but not at the professional level. Hopefully this changes as the Pacers are certainly a team which deserves far more crowd support, here’s to hoping they get it soon.
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.