Pacers, Blazers Pre-Thoughts


I was never a fan of Jarret Jack. His momentum killing turnovers and occasionally ill-advised shots in the clutch when Roy should’ve had the ball turned me off. I even wrote one or two rants last year in the wee hours of the morning that you could probably find if you searched the archives (not going to do it for you since it wasn’t my most objective moments). But now that I’ve been able to take a step back and see Jack with another team, a part of me misses him. I wouldn’t undo the Bayless trade, but for all of Jack’s shortcomings, he can still get to the rim and he still has a quiet fire inside of him that is nothing but admirable. Not to make him out to be a future star or anything, but Jack very well could turn out to be a solid veteran in the league for years, and maybe even a backup point for a championship squad. I think I lumped him in with Z-Bo too often in the early stages of his career, so I welcome Jack to Portland tonight with open arms.

I’m talking about Jack because the Pacers are in Portland tonight, or at least some of the Pacers are. Danny Granger, possibly my biggest non-Blazers man crush in the league, is out. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is sitting on the bench in street clothes. And the Pacers are basically running a bunch of rookies and role players out there with T.J. Ford and Troy Murphy. That’s not to say they can’t beat you though, as Jim O’Brien still runs a shoot-now-better-than-later offense that leads to high point totals for both squads. Only New York and Orlando attempt more three’s, and when Ford is at his best, he’s finding people even you couldn’t see for open shots in the corner.

What all that means is its going to be a very busy night on defense for Portland. The Pacers will swing the ball until someone has a shot, so if the defensive rotations are a step slow, you could get burned. You can get away with it every so often if Indiana isn’t blazing from outside, but because of the sheer volume of shots they put up (86.3 per game, second in the league to the D’Antoni’s), you can’t give them looks all day.

Where Indiana can really hurt you in sneaky ninja ways is on the boards. Because they put up so many shots and keep the tempo as high as possible, the Pacers grab the third-most boards in the league, but they also have the bodies to do so. ‘But they only have Murphy, Jeff Foster and Rasho‘ you might say, well they get over 21 rebounds a game between them and well all outwork you if they aren’t bodied up. Murphy is easily the most dangerous of the bunch because he can step out for threes just like Matt Bonner can with San Antonio, and he will devour your soul if the bigs don’t get out. The Pacers will often run small with Murphy or Foster at center, so either Joel needs to have his kickboxer feet ready, or the Blazers might counter and run with LaMarcus at the 5 spot.

This is another one of those games that should be a win but just because of the nature of the other team, if you fall asleep you could be down 15-20 at the half. Of course, there’s plenty of opportunities against team’s like the Pacers, so if you see the Blazers down early even though they seem to be in front of their men when they need to be, don’t panic. But if everybody looks like they’re running through mud, it could be a problem.

Nuggets, Lakers and Mavericks are all coming up in the next week, so let’s go into that stretch feeling good, shall we?