Friday, February 7, 2014 at 7:00 PM ET at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Game Preview: Pacers (38-10) vs Trail Blazers (35-14)
Wheat Hotchkiss | Updated: February 7, 2014, 12:30 p.m.
The Pacers will face a formidable challenge on Friday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers in a showdown between two of the top-five teams in the NBA. Riding a three-game winning streak, Indiana currently owns the best record in the NBA. Portland has dropped three of its last five games, but still sits in third-place in the Western Conference.
The last meeting between the Pacers and Blazers was one of the best games in the NBA this season. Paul George scored a career-high 43 points, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard combined for 54 to lead the Blazers to a 106-102 victory in Portland. This time around, the Pacers have home court.
Portland opened the season on a torrid pace, at one point winning 11 straight games and starting the year 22-4. They've cooled considerably since, going 13-10 since Dec. 21, but have still demonstrated potential to contend for the title of best in the West, winning games in Oklahoma City and San Antonio over that stretch.
The Blazers are led by Aldridge and Lillard, both All-Star selections. As of Thursday morning, Aldridge ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring (24.1 points per game) and tied for fifth in rebounding (11.6 per contest). Lillard, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year, adds 20.6 points and 5.7 assists while shooting 41 percent from 3-point range.
All three of Portland's other starters also score in double figures. Wesley Matthews is a 42-percent 3-point shooter averages 16.7 points per contest. Nicolas Batum does a little bit of everything, averaging 13.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Center Robin Lopez chips in 10.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks.
The Blazers will be without sixth man Mo Williams, who left the team for family reasons. Williams averages 9.1 points and 4.6 assists in 24.2 minutes. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said that former Pacers player Earl Watson will fill in for Williams at backup point guard.
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson bruised his back on a nasty fall in Tuesday's win in Atlanta. Stephenson did not practice Thursday and Pacers head coach Frank Vogel announced at shootaround Friday morning that Stephenson will not play Friday night. Danny Granger will replace Stephenson in the starting lineup. Rasual Butler could see minutes off the bench in relief of Granger and Paul George, and Vogel also said he might play point guards George Hill and C.J. Watson together for stretches.
Andrew Bynum, who signed with the Pacers on Saturday, joined the team for shootaround and spoke with the media for the first time since signing. Bynum will be on the Pacers bench in street clothes Friday night, but there is currently no timeline for the 7-foot center to appear in a game.
Pacers: Lance Stephenson (out, bruised lower back)
Trail Blazers: Mo Williams (out, family reasons)
"We're just going to treat it like it's any other game, and just get prepared. We know that (the Trail Blazers) are one of the top three teams in the West, so it's going to be a good one tomorrow." -Roy Hibbert
"(The Trail Blazers) are like us. They've got a great shooting guard and a good point guard. Their big man is phenomenal. We've just got to bring the pressure to them and not let them feel comfortable on the floor." -Lance Stephenson
"I like the big games. It's always fun playing against tough competition, and we felt like we had an opportunity to win in Portland. We know we've got our work cut out for tomorrow night. This is a team that is going to be a great challenge for us, but we feel like we can take them down as well." -Paul George
- The Blazers lead the all-time series with the Pacers, 47-32. The Pacers are 22-17 in games played in Indianapolis.
- Pacers associate head coach Nate McMillan was head coach of the Trail Blazers from 2005-2012, compiling a record of 266-269 with three playoff appearances.
- The Pacers assigned guard Orlando Johnson to the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA D-League on Thursday.
December 2: Paul George scored the Pacers' last 15 points, but the Portland Trail Blazers made enough plays down the stretch to hang on for a 106-102 win.
In the loss, George scored a career-high 43 points on 16-for-30 shooting, including going 7-for-15 from 3-point range. Roy Hibbert added a double-double (16 points and 14 rebounds) and David West contributed 12 points, eight boards, and five assists.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 28 points (on 11-for-19 shooting) and 10 rebounds. Damian Lillard added 26 and six, while Wesley Matthews chipped in 15.
Broadcast Information | Find Local Listings »
TV: FOX Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Brooke Olzendam (sideline reporter/host)
ESPN - Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Jon Barry (analyst), Heather Cox (reporter)
Radio: 107.5 The Fan FM/1070 AM, Pacers Radio Network – Mark Boyle (play-by-play), Slick Leonard (analyst), Kevin Lee (sideline reporter/host)
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