Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. PST, the Portland Trail Blazers (35-14) will take on the league leading Indiana Pacers (38-10). The Trail Blazers are hoping to revive the play that earned them a home victory against the Pacers on December 2nd (106-102), while the Pacers are looking to start February with four straight wins.
The Portland Trail Blazers made a statement-win in early December. The Indiana Pacers came in with the best record in the NBA and the Blazers shrugged it off. The Trail Blazers were able to withstand a late barrage from Paul George and secure the win. LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 10 rebounds while Damian Lillard added 26 points. With a record of 5-5 in their last 10 games, the Trail Blazers must try to get back on track. They have not eclipsed the century mark in their last two games and have only done it once in their last five. Where has the potent offense gone?
The Indiana Pacers continue to lead the NBA in the standings. They have a 23-2 home record and will be coming off of a two day rest. In the previous meeting with the Blazers, Paul George put up huge numbers. He scored a season-high (and career-high) 43 points on 16-30 shooting. Center Roy Hibbert, who Portland once pursued, recorded a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds. The Pacers will play tough defense and it will most likely aid in continuing the poor offensive performance from the Trail Blazers.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- No injuries to report.
- Lance Stephenson is listed as day-to-day and is questionable for tonight’s game with a bruised lower back. Stephenson suffered a scary fall on Tuesday against the Hawks.
Keys To The Game
Nicolas Batum vs. Paul George. Batum must have read my preview before he took the floor in New York on Wednesday. I mentioned his hot scoring streak against the Knicks and he went out and led the team in scoring. Now Batum is being mentioned for his defense, not his offense. It’s just my speculation but I doubt he (along with the Blazers coaching staff) wants Paul George to go for 40-plus again. Batum’s length should make life hard for George and help the Trail Blazers get some stops. Paul George likes to play against Portland. Behind the 20.6 points he averages against New Orleans, George averages his second best points per game against Portland at 18.5.
Bench Production. The production from the Blazers’ bench has been atrocious. In the last four games, the bench has averaged 10.75 points. Included in those four games are two games of six points. SIX! I’m not sure how that happens. Terry Stotts has been very inconsistent with his rotations which might have affected the chemistry. However, the amount of talent we have coming off the bench should be able to produce more than six points. The Trail Blazers bench will have their hands full. The Pacers bench has three guys averaging more than six points per game.
Damian Lillard. This game will be the first in a double-header broadcast on ESPN and tomorrow night, all eyes will be on Damian Lillard. Today, Lillard accepted invitations to participate in five All-Star events. Yes you read that correctly, FIVE. As David MacKay mentioned, he will become the first player to participate in five All-Star events. Many people have yet to see Lillard play more than a few games this season. Playing in a small market and not having constant national television coverage probably leaves many saying, “So who is this sophomore star that will be taking over All-Star weekend?” Lillard has struggled to find his offense lately. Poor shot selection has led to his poor shooting percentage. When he gets that fire in his gut, there is no stopping him. Lillard must find that fire and prove to everyone that he is worthy of participating in five All-Star events with a big win.