Countdown to Tipoff: Blazers at Pacers 120313
Tuesday, March 13 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, 7 p.m.
Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers (23-16) vs. Blazers (20-21)
By Conrad Brunner
SCOUTING THE PACERS: After losing to four of the top six teams in the Eastern Conference last week, the Pacers return home to face the sub-.500 Trail Blazers. Considering their last six wins have come against sub-.500 teams, this represents an excellent opportunity for the Pacers. They've been a wildly streaky team, losing five in a row, then winning six straight before the current four-game skid. Common threads have been defense and rebounding. They've allowed averages of 98.3 points, .454 shooting and .405 3-point shooting in the last four while being outrebounded 195-144 (an average deficit of 12.8 per game). The offense hasn't been much to brag about, either, averaging 88.3 points on 41 percent shooting, including .267 from the 3-point line.
Aside from Paul George (16.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 steals), individual struggles have abounded in the streak. Darren Collison (6.8 points, .367 shooting), Danny Granger (4 of 22 from the 3-point line), Roy Hibbert (6.8 points, .314 shooting since the All-Star break) and A.J. Price (5 of 23 overall, 2 of 13 from the arc in the last six) all have slumped. In a race for homecourt advantage in the East that offers little margin for error, the Pacers dropped two spots last week, from third to fifth, and already have lost season series tie-breakers to two of their chief competitors, Orlando and Atlanta.
SCOUTING THE BLAZERS: With the trade deadline looming Thursday, Portland is one of several teams that must decide whether it is all-in for the playoff push or thinking instead of the future. One of a pack of eight teams separated by four games battling for the final three playoff spots in the West, the Blazers are like the Pacers in some ways -- lacking an elite talent to build around but loaded with depth, with six players scoring in double figures.
They're also smack in the middle of a seven-game road trip, and they've struggled mightily away from the Rose Garden. The trip opened with a loss in Minnesota, followed by a rout in Boston in which the Blazers trailed by 43 points before trimming the final margin to 18. They rebounded to beat the lowly Wizards 110-99 Saturday to snap their four-game road losing streak.
KEY MATCHUP: With his smooth mid-range game and unusual athleticism, LaMarcus Aldridge will be a difficult cover for David West. Aldridge has averaged 24.7 points on .682 shooting (30 of 44) in the last three games. West's chief advantage is his strength, toughness and low-post savvy, so the duel between these two proud veterans should be watched closely.
QUOTE MARKS: "We've had a five-game losing streak a couple weeks ago, then we won six straight. We know we're a good team. We know the schedule's going to hit you hard sometimes and you've got to do the best you can to manage it. We have a great deal of confidence that we're a very good team right now." - Coach Frank Vogel
INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Jeff Foster (back) is out, while George Hill (left shoulder) is day-to-day. For the Blazers, Elliot Williams (shoulder) and Greg Oden (knee) are out.
BROADCAST INFO: The game will be telecast at 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Indiana with Chris Denari and Austin Croshere calling the game with Brook Olzendam hosting the pregame show starting at 6:30. The radio broadcast will air on WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Bob "Slick" Leonard, with Kevin Lee hosting the pre-game and halftime shows.
INTERACT: You can get in-game commentary from this group of Pacers personalities throughout the game on Twitter.