Portland Trail Blazers (35-14) at Indiana Pacers (38-10)
Location: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Tip: 7:00 p.m. EST
TV: Check local listings
Line: IND -6.0
Tough out tonight for the Indiana Pacers, as they are set to battle the Portland Trail Blazers out of the Western Conference.
When the Pacers embarked on their first trip out west earlier this season, Portland posed as the toughest matchup for Indiana. It was a great game and great performance by both teams, but it resulted in a Pacers loss.
Tonight, Indiana looks to redeem that loss and return the favor to Portland.
As of earlier today, Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson remained “questionable” for tonight’s game with a bruised lower back suffered in Tuesday’s win over the Atlanta Hawks. Stephenson drove hard to the basket, went air born and, in the process, was fouled. The crazy shot attempt went in, but the fall to the ground put Stephenson into a limp.
Teammate Roy Hibbert said boldly, “He’ll be fine,” referring to Stephenson. Hibbert also said Lance was up and moving around on the flight back to Indianapolis and seemed to be OK. Stephenson did not practice Thursday.
Nevertheless, the Pacers have a game to play with or without Stephenson. His absence would certainly hurt tonight against an up-tempo Portland squad, but Indiana would have to manage in the event Stephenson does not play.
Paul George put up 40+ points in the first showdown with the Trail Blazers in Portland, and although I don’t envision a similar effort due to the lower scoring totals George has posted recently, I still see him taking advantage of defensive mismatches.
The toughest players to guard for Indiana are All-Stars Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Pacers struggled to defend those two in the first meeting, and I would foresee a game plan from the Indiana coaches centered around slowing those two guys down. That will certainly take solid team defense.
Portland likes to get out and run, so it will be important for the Indiana Pacers to get back in transition defense and guard the three-point line. The Blazers are also an excellent shooting team from beyond the arc.
Stop Portland on offense, and the Indiana Pacers win: 102-93.