Game Details: Canseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (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)
The Blazers beat the Pacers at the Rose Garden last month, but that game isn’t entirely indicative of the matchup tonight. For one thing, Andre Miller missed most of that game with a stomach bug, and the rest of the game provided proof that neither Patty Mills nor Armon Johnson were ready to play starter minutes at point guard. Miller is playing tonight, and it goes without saying that his presence will be a huge difference-maker for Portland. But the bigger story is last week’s firing of Larry O’Brien as Indiana’s coach, following an abysmal month for the Pacers. Most of the matchups are the same, but these teams are in slightly different places than they were.
Tonight’s game could hinge on Roy Hibbert. After seemingly falling off a cliff the last month, he’s had two consecutive double-doubles. Joel Przybilla has looked more comfortable in recent weeks, and tonight will be a test for him. The team announced today that they will not renew Chris Johnson’s 10-day contract, which is a little confusing since Marcus Camby is still supposedly a few weeks away from returning to the court. If Hibbert is aggressive tonight and Przybilla gets into early foul trouble, well, I hope you liked what you saw out of Sean Marks.
Wesley Matthews injured his ankle in a rather ugly fashion Wednesday night in Denver, and although he returned to the game, it wasn’t pretty to watch. The Blazers have to hope the ankle isn’t too much of a hinderance. What that means is that the bulk of Danny Granger duties will go to Nicolas Batum. Portland’s ability to contain Granger offensively is the center of its gameplan tonight.
The rest of the Pacers aren’t anything special, and most of the matchups favor Portland, but Indiana does have some nice players. Darren Collison has dropped off slightly from his rookie year in New Orleans, but he’s still a promising young point guard known for his speed. Tyler Hansbrough and Mike Dunleavy have contributed solid minutes. Having Miller back should help Portland handle Collison, who abused Mills and Johnson before Nate McMillan opted to move Rudy Fernandez to the point, which actually worked. A loss tonight isn’t desirable, but it certainly wouldn’t be as embarrassing as a loss tomorrow would be.