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Game 45 Preview: Pacers vs. Trail Blazers

Game Time:  7:00 p.m.  TV:  CSNNW

The Pacers hit town an improved team, though you wouldn't know it of late.  Carrying a 16-23 record they're in the playoff hunt in the East but they've lost 9 of their last 12 games.  Some of those losses have come against legitimate teams like the Celtics and Spurs, but most haven't.

As always the Pacers are led by forward Danny Granger.  He's an offensive machine, though his shot attempts and scoring average (21.5) are both down this year.  He can hit from anywhere, shooting 43% overall and 39% from the arc on 6 three-point attempts per game.  As with so many other struggling teams, Indiana's scoring drops off the table from there though.  Nobody else scores more than 15 per game.  Point guard Darren Collison has been a mild disappointment, with his shooting percentages and assist total well below last year's.  Center Roy Hibbert is good for some rebounding and defense but his offense is rudimentary.  After that we're looking at Mike Dunleavy, Brandon Rush, Josh McRoberts, and the always-bankable Jeff Foster.  The once-brilliant T.J. Ford has been DNP-CD'ed.  Veteran James Posey doesn't top 36% shooting.  There are major flaws in nearly every player in this lineup.  Beating them is a matter of picking the correct ones to exploit.

Indiana's scoring woes stem largely from their inability to score in the paint.  The lack of easy shots drives their overall shooting percentage into the toilet.  They never draw fouls and they can't hit enough threes to make up for their lack of production.  They also turn over the ball, compounding their problems.  All of this totals up to an anemic 97.3 ppg scoring average. 

The defensive end looks a little better.  The Pacers are 4th in the league in field goal percentage allowed, mostly because Hibbert and company don't allow many more points in the paint than the Pacers score themselves.   Though their perimeter defense doesn't live up the interior they're still a respectable 8th overall in defensive efficiency.  They're quite good on the defensive boards, which doesn't hurt.

The key to beating the Pacers tonight will be getting good shots and hitting them.  The Blazers need to work around Hibbert and Foster, perhaps by beating them down the floor.  The guards will need to shoot with confidence and the forwards will need to rebound.  One good thing about this matchup is the Blazers can use Joel Przybilla with impunity, as Hibbert and Foster won't threaten any more than Joel does.  It'll be interesting to watch the rebounding battle.

See the Indy point of view at Indy Cornrows.

No Jersey Contest for this game, as my day job again made me miss Thursday's game and I hate to run a form with one day's notice.  We'll resume on Monday.

--Dave (