Portland Trail Blazers (42-27) vs. Indiana Pacers (44-26)
Monday, March 18th - 7:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: CJ McCollum (out)
Pacers injuries: Victor Oladipo (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Indy Cornrows
The Portland Trail Blazers are back home for four games, the last time the Blazers will have consecutive games at home until the playoffs. Fortunately, there was better news than many feared about CJ McCollum after he injured his leg in the Blazers’ 103-108 loss to San Antonio. Still, McCollum is still likely to be gone for at least a few weeks. Portland will need to get used to life without McCollum for a while, so no better time to get after it than Monday evening against Indiana.
The Indiana Pacers might have been expected to fold after the season-ending injury to Victor Oladipo, but that hasn’t happened. The Pacers find themselves in fourth place in the East, just behind the Philadelphia 76ers and just ahead of the Boston Celtics. Make all the jokes about the Eastern Conference you want, but a recent win against the Oklahoma City Thunder reinforces the fact that the Indiana Pacers are a solid team that can cause good teams lots of problems.
What to watch for
- Rodney Hood. With McCollum unavailable, Hood would seem to be the player not named Damian Lillard or Jusuf Nurkic who is most capable of picking up some of the scoring slack. After a somewhat slow start to his career with the Blazers, Hood has been in double figures four out of the last five times that he’s logged at least 10 minutes, including 17 points against New Orleans and his season-high 27 against Charlotte. A solid 17 points or more against the Pacers would go a long way towards filling the void left by McCollum.
- Steals. The Pacers are the third-best team in the NBA in steals at 8.8 per game. In contrast, the Blazers are 25th at 6.7 per game. In a close game, every possession is important. An extra two steals could be the difference.
- Pacers’ defense. How is Indiana doing so well without Victor Oladipo? Pretty much the same way they did it before Oladipo went down: defense. The Pacers have allowed the fewest points per game in the NBA this season, and since Oladipo went down they have been third best. The Pacers also have the second-best defensive rating. The Blazers aren’t really built for a defensive struggle, so Portland wouldn’t mind a higher-scoring game. If the winner scores less than 105, it’s probably not going to be the Blazers on top.
What they’re saying
J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star writes that with Victor Oladipo out, Bojan Bogdanovic is the first option at the end of games:
Bojan Bogdanovic isn’t just the Pacers’ best scorer now, he’s the one they want involved in the action to end games.
For the second game in a row Saturday, this time against the Denver Nuggets, he took the shot. For the second game in a row, he missed.
So what’s the deal with Tyreke Evans? Ian Hansen of 8.9 Seconds looks at the situation:
Evans was brought in to be a compliment for Victor Oladipo. He was supposed to be the guy to put Indiana on another level offensively and be a much-needed scoring presence off of the bench, a la Lance Stephenson. It made sense to be excited, he did average 19.4 points, 5.2 assists, and 5.1 rebounds in his prior season with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Fast forward eight months and Indiana is on another level. Oladipo has played just 36 games this season, and Indiana sits at the fourth seed, just behind the 76ers with a 44-25 record. The question is: Where is Tyreke Evans? They have been this good without him.
Finally, let’s look in on Myles Turner’s grandmother watching him play, courtesy of Myles himself: