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Portland Trail Blazers at Indiana Pacers Game Preview

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In search of answers, the Trail Blazers travel to Indiana to face the Pacers.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Chicago Bulls Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (12-12) at Indiana Pacers (11-12)

Dec. 10, 2016, 4:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (doubtful), Maurice Harkless (probable), Festus Ezeli (out)
Pacers injuries: none
SBN Affiliate: Indy Cornrows

Losers of two straight, Portland heads to Indiana in hopes of salvaging its current five-game road trip. The Pacers aren’t faring much better, as they will enter tonight’s contest coming off an embarrassing loss to the cellar-dwelling Mavericks. Both teams are underperforming compared to their preseason expectations, so the smell of desperation should be noticeable for both teams tonight in Indianapolis.

The Trail Blazers coasted to a solid 131-109 victory over Indy on Nov. 30, but they will be facing a much healthier Pacers squad in this tussle. Paul George is now four games into his return to action, which could cause major problems for Portland. Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless are both listed on the injury report, leaving coach Terry Stotts at a major disadvantage when it comes to slowing down Indiana’s leading man.

Outside of George’s return, CJ Miles will be in action after being sidelined in the previous meeting with Portland. Miles connected on six 3-point shots in the loss to the Mavericks on Friday night, proving he is more than capable of putting up solid numbers in limited action. Bench scoring favored the Trail Blazers in the last matchup, but the added scoring punch of a solid outside shooter could move the needle in the Pacers’ direction.

Speaking of CJs, the player to watch this evening for the Blazers is CJ McCollum. Damian Lillard consistently draws the focus of the opposing defense, and if that holds true in this game, Monta Ellis will likely be assigned to McCollum for long stretches. It has been a rough week for the Pacers’ shooting guard. In the course of five days, he allowed Klay Thompson to drop 60 points in three quarters, and he also allowed Wesley Matthews to turn back the clock in a rare Dallas victory.

The Grizzlies effectively slowed down the pace of Thursday’s game, but the Trail Blazers should look to push the tempo tonight. Indiana struggled with transition defense in the last meeting, which translated into 17 fast break points for Portland.

Controlling the paint will be just as crucial as dictating the tempo for Stotts’ squad. Portland’s rebounding problems are apparent, but they have a slight advantage over an Indiana team that struggles in the same area. The Pacers are ranked No. 28 in the NBA when it comes to limiting their opponent on the offensive glass, which is good news for a Blazers team that will feature Ed Davis for extended minutes.

Perhaps the most underrated aspect of this game is that the Trail Blazers will be the beneficiaries of adequate rest for a change. Indiana will be playing in its fifth game in seven days, showing that Portland isn’t the only team in the league that faces this problem.

With the injury setbacks in mind, the Blazers will have to depend on their offense once again. A stellar performance from either Lillard or McCollum could be the difference, but it is far from a guarantee. A disappointing finish in Memphis has set the stage for Lillard to immediately redeem himself. There aren’t going to be many easy victories for Portland this season, and tonight will likely reinforce that sentiment.


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