Game Time: 4:00 Pacific TV: Comcast
So now...the Blazers walk into Conseco Fieldhouse down Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum, and of course Greg Oden. That's two starters (the best defenders in the starting lineup by far) and the top two bench scorers (who, by the way, often score more than the starters). They face the Pacers who are now down Danny Granger, the guy who has lead the team in scoring in 14 of the 17 games in which he has played, basically their only reliable point producer. This is a little like going to a concert featuring the Rolling Stones minus Mick Jagger with opening act The Dave Matthews Band minus everybody but Dave Matthews plus special guest Britney Spears minus her boobs. Suffice it to say it's not going to be on many people's "must watch" list tonight. But we're all groupies who appreciate the finer points of the show even when the public-pleasing guys are absent so let's dive into this.
It could get ugly.
Don't worry Pacers fans. That's not a threat. Nor is it an intimation that the Blazers are going to maul you. Really, seriously, this could be an ugly, ugly game. Our only real hope is if both teams abandon defense entirely and just let each other run up and down the court, playing rock-paper-scissors at halftime to see who gets the last dunk. Should anyone try to play defense (don't hurt yourselves there guys) or worse, slow down the tempo... shudder. The Pacers are a high-pace-oriented team. They're second in the league right now in fact. The Blazers are dead last. The book says Portland should limit the tempo, forcing the Pacers to play in the halfcourt, especially with their prime scorer out. I'm begging you, no. Run, Blazers! Run like the wind! I can't imagine seeing Dahntay Jones, Brandon Rush, Earl Watson, Mike Dunleavy, and Jeff Foster attempting to score in a plodding game. Dr. James Naismith would have burnt the peach basket if he had been forced to endure that. I'll risk a loss. Just don't affront my eyeballs like that.
But then who am I kidding? Watching Steve Blake on the dribble, Andre Miller shoot jumpers, Martell Webster shoot anything, Joel Przybilla try to catch the ball...oh man, I am trying so hard to talk myself out of watching this game. Focus, Dave. Focus.
OK...the Pacers do have players who cause Portland trouble. Troy Murphy seems to have an attitude when facing us. He's one of those good face-up power forwards with range out to the arc and a rebounding streak in him. We're not strong against them. T.J. Ford and Earl Watson have also given the Blazers fits in the past because they're quick. Guys like Dunleavy and Rush aren't great performers but they can get streaky especially when left alone. Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough, and Jeff Foster lunchbucket the middle. Dahntay Jones, their second-leading scorer, went for 21 against the Warriors and 16 against the Kings. Of course he followed that up with 4 against the Jazz and 6 against the Clippers. Oy. This could get ugly.
Despite having blue-collar guys on the roster the Pacers get outrebounded a lot. If they're getting offensive rebounds you're doing something wrong. They score very little in the paint and generally don't have people in position to grab them. They're mediocre on the defensive boards as well. They depend on fastbreak points to keep them afloat. In the halfcourt they rely heavily on the jumper which often doesn't fall. They take a lot of threes and miss 70% of them. Their defense isn't bad but it's nothing to write home about. They foul a lot. Long story short they don't do enough things well to beat the Blazers under normal circumstances.
Of course the circumstances aren't normal. Besides the injuries Portland has looked confused, lethargic, at times incoherent recently. Anybody could beat a Blazer team looking like that and a couple of "anybodys" have. Give them a sniff of an easy game and the Pacers will be happy to take it. They've beaten six teams this year. One of those was Boston. Of course five of those wins came in the same week. And they were a long time ago. And every one of them featured Danny Granger. But the Blazers just lost to the Knicks. And their offense is so predictable it could be a Jay Leno joke. And here I go talking myself out of watching this again. Better move on...
Pivotal Points of the Game
1. Just play with energy, please? Any team featuring Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge should still be able to beat a Granger-less Pacers squad. Just don't make it one of those nights when anyone will beat you!
2. Defense is all about the mid-range. If they're hitting threes or scoring at the rim you were really negligent.
3. And in that vein, show me a guy you have to double-team on their side. Maybe you watch carefully to make sure those point guards aren't zipping past yours. But really, other than one simple rotation to cut off the middle in case of penetration you should just be able to guard your own man tonight. No fancy rotations. No swooping in and trying to recover. Don't treat them like they're an All-Star team offensively and thereby leave guys wide open.
4. Do get back in transition.
5. Their interior defense is pretty decent but they have some cream puffs on the wings. Move the ball and take advantage of the short jumper and not just the three-ball.
6. Rebounds should be to the Blazers what waitresses are to Tiger Woods tonight. Go get ‘em, Tig...uhhhh...Blazers.
Final Thoughts and Links
Losing this game would be a bad idea.
Check out the fun with our old friends at IndyCornrows.com. Seriously, these are some of the guys we came up with so click over and pay your respects if you're of a mind to.
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