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Portland Trail Blazers at Indiana Pacers Preview

The Blazers try to get back on track against Victor Oladipo and Pacers.

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Memphis Grizzlies v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (3-2) vs. Indiana Pacers (4-2)

Monday, October 28 - 4:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Maurice Harkless (out)
Pacers injuries: None
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Indy Cornrows

The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off a 120-111 loss to the Miami Heat in Miami. The Blazers played their worst half of the season before mounting an impressive comeback in the second half. Sadly, the Heat snuffed out any dreams of a Blazer victory with impressive 3-point shooting down the stretch, spoiling Damian Lillard’s 42-point performance.

The Indiana Pacers meanwhile are looking for their third victory in a row and a perfect 3-0 record at home. Most recently, the Pacers saw off the Cleveland Cavaliers (and Cleveland’s coach, Tyronn Lue) by a score of 119-107 in Cleveland.

The Blazers are beginning a stretch of five games in seven days so Portland can’t afford to get off to a lethargic start like they did against Miami. The games won’t get any easier with Houston, New Orleans and LeBron and the Lakers all in the next week.

What to watch for

  • Can the Blazers close down open Indiana shooters? The Pacers are second in the NBA in shooting percentage at 51.7% and are first in the league in 3-point percentage at 44.6%. The Blazers are 12th from the field at 46.5% and 10th from deep at 36.9%. If Portland can’t bother Indiana’s shooters then they could be in for a long night.
  • Portland needs to own the boards. One of the strong points for the Blazers so far this year is rebounding. Portland is third in the NBA, pulling down 51.2 boards a game. Indiana is fourth worst, averaging 41.2 rebounds a game. Advanced stats closes the gap a bit, with the Blazers fifth in the league pulling down 53% of available rebounds, while the Pacers are 17th at 49.6%. The Pacers don’t have a single 7-footer on their roster while the Blazers have three. This is a battle the Blazers must win.
  • Which team will dictate the tempo? The Pacers are the slowest team in the league, getting only 97.58 possessions on average per game. This is similar to last year’s Blazers team who had 97.20 possessions per game. A year ago that number of possessions was middle-of-the-road; this year it is positively snail-like. So far this season Portland is up to 103.05 possessions per game. While this is still a far cry from Atlanta’s 108.6 possessions per game, it is a very substantial increase over last year. Look for Indiana to try to slow down the pace while the Blazers want more of an up-tempo game. A fast, high-scoring game suits Portland, who is averaging 122.4 points per game; if they score at least 115 they have every chance of coming away winners.

What they’re saying

Jim Ayello of the Indianapolis Star writes that the Pacers second unit is getting the job done and reducing the work load of the starters:

If the Pacers second unit continues to play as well as it has throughout most of the first five games of the season, that could wind up helping the Pacers pick up critical victories in February and March — and perhaps even into April and May.

A byproduct of having, as Bojan Bogdanovic recently called it, “five starters coming off the bench,” is that it relieves some of the pressure from the Pacers’ true starting rotation from having to play big minutes early in the year.

Not all has been going smoothly for the Pacers reports Mark Montieth of

Tyreke Evans was back at practice, back in the fold and presumably more immersed in the team culture.

Having been left home when the Pacers flew to Cleveland on Friday for what coach Nate McMillan described as a “pattern” of tardiness – something Evans has acknowledged - Evans appeared to have been forgiven and his mistake forgotten by Sunday’s practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Not all off-color language coming from the bench is done in anger. J. Cooper from Indy Cornrows explains:

Four-letter words are relatively commonplace in the throes of NBA action, but the context in which Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson was caught on camera shouting, “What the F—!” near the end of the third quarter of last Saturday’s game against the Indiana Pacers was anything but.

Read the piece to find out what exactly that phrase means, at least some of the time. Who knows, we might even be treated to Terry Stotts shouting those words on Monday.

Somewhere Marc Maron is smiling.