Team Records: Indiana (26-16) at Portland (20-21)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM (moved due to Beaver basketball)
Vegas Line: Portland -1.5
Refs: Derrick Stafford, Derrick Collins, Mark Lindsay
The Skinny: Losing close games is one thing, losing them repeatedly is something else and losing on an off balance 3 at the horn after you had just hit a ridiculous shot to tie the game is about as low as anyone can get about any one game. The Blazers have gotten in this pattern of falling behind, rallying late and coming up just short. Hopefully they will be able to get it done this time against a Pacers squad that has won seven of their last nine.
Last Time They Met: The Pacers beat the Blazers into submission, holding Portland at bay for most of the game before a late Blazers run made it close but it was too little, too late for Portland to come back.
Projected Pacers Lineup:
PF: David West (Xavier, 10th season) – 16.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.8 APG
SF: Paul George (Fresno State, 3rd season) – 17.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 3.8 APG
C: Roy Hibbert (Georgetown, 5th season) – 9.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG: Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati, 3rd season) – 7.8 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG
PG: George Hill (IUPUI, 5th season) – 14.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 4.8 APG
Player to Watch: Roy Hibbert (pictured at right) – Although they ended up not actually extending an offer sheet to restricted free agent Roy Hibbert, after Indiana made it clear they would match any offer, Portland made no secret of their desire to sign Hibbert. Frankly it looks as if Portland lucked out as Hibbert’s career year last season appears, insofar as it goes this year, to be an aberration as his numbers have reverted back down to where he had been performing the first three years of his career. Hibbert’s rebounding (which was never great to begin with) is slightly down, his shooting is way down, both from the floor and from the line (when a big man is shooting only 41.5% from the floor that’s a very bad thing), his turnovers are up and his PER is at the lowest level of his career. Hibbert may have the talent to get it together but for now, it appears he has reverted rather than progressed.
Did You Know?: Although the Pacers have won three in a row and 12 of the last 17 over Portland, from 1976 (the year the Pacers entered the NBA) to 1993, Portland won 40 of 60 games vs. the Pacers, including 25 of 31 at home.
Song of the Day: “Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty-This song seems appropriate for the Blazers right now as they have fallen into a six game losing streak and below .500. Enjoy:
Portland: Out –SG Elliot Williams (Achilles), Questionable- SF Sasha Pavlovic (Foot).
Indiana: Out – SF Danny Granger (Left Patella Tendonitis).
Re-Evaluating Indiana: The Non Love of the Fans
The Pacers have a good team but you sure wouldn’t know it by the tepid support of the Indiana fans. Despite making a thrilling ran through the playoffs last year and playing while despite the absence of their best player Danny Granger, the Pacers 26th in the NBA in attendance, averaging only 14,452 fans per game, and filling only 75.1% of the seats. This ranks below such NBA bottom feeders as the Wizards, Bobcats and Suns. 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.