Game 45 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Indiana Pacers

LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez lead the shorthanded Blazers against the Indiana Pacers tonight. Photo courtesy of the Oregonian.

Blazers: 24-20

Pacers: 16-23

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KTXG (95.5 FM).

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Joel Przybilla (#10, 7′1″, Minnesota)

Projected Indiana Starting Lineup: PG Darren Collison (#2, 6’0″, UCLA), SG Mike Dunleavy (#17, 6’9″, Duke), SF Danny Granger (#33, 6’8″, New Mexico), PF Tyler Hansbrough (#50, 6’9″, North Carolina), C Roy Hibbert (#55, 7’2″, Georgetown)

Let’s be real: we won’t find out whether the Blazers of the (temporarily) post-Marcus Camby era will be able to get by until this Thursday, when they face the Boston Celtics. Tonight, though, they welcome the latest in a parade of sub-.500 teams into the Rose Garden, the Indiana Pacers.

The centerpiece of Indiana’s offense is, of course, Danny Granger. If he’s not carrying the team, they don’t have a lot of other reliable scorers. Roy Hibbert, the Pacers’ second-best player, is a defensive-minded center who could exploit the Blazers’ hole in the middle with Camby out. Then again, Hibbert missed the Pacers’ last game with a respiratory infection and is a game-time decision tonight. If he doesn’t play, the Blazers have a huge advantage in the middle. If he does, it’s still a winnable matchup, but the team will be dependent on Joel Przybilla’s continuing recent string of solid rebounding games.

Besides that, the Pacers don’t have much. After an excellent rookie season for New Orleans, Darren Collison was expected to become a star following his trade to Indiana. He hasn’t lived up to the hype so far. Second-year forward Tyler Hansbrough has been logging starter minutes this year and, despite some hard-nosed play on defense, has been inconsistent. That’s about it for noteworthy players on this team.

On Portland’s end, they need to knock down shots and keep the turnovers to a minimum. If Hibbert sits, the window is wide open for LaMarcus Aldridge to have another huge night (although let’s be honest, he probably will anyway). Batum and Matthews will have their work cut out for them guarding the versatile Granger, but if they can keep him from putting up big points, this game should be one they win.

The Blazers have had about as easy of a January schedule as you could ask for, and so far they’ve been taking advantage of it. You can’t put too much stock into their play against some of the more mediocre teams in the league, but we’ve seen these guys blow winnable games to some pretty bad teams, so the fact that they’ve been taking care of business lately is encouraging.

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