Portland Trail Blazers (26-33) at Indiana Pacers (34-24)
Thursday, February 27 - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Damian Lillard (out)
Pacers injuries: Edmond Sumner (questionable), Jeremy Lamb (out), Victor Oladipo (questionable)
How to watch on TV: TNT
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Indy Cornrows
The Portland Trail Blazers begin a three-game Eastern Conference road trip on Thursday against the Indiana Pacers. The Blazers, who have lost two of three games since the All-Star break, haven’t won on the road since January 31 (against the Lakers). Damian Lillard is not traveling with the team and will miss Thursday’s game.
Portland beat the Pacers 139-129 at the Moda Center back in January. Lillard scored 50 points in that game though. Indiana has won two of their three games since the All-Star break, but they had been struggling heading into it. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games; however, they have been tough to beat at home, with a 20-10 record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse this season.
What to watch for
- Mcollum continuing to lead the way. CJ McCollum has stepped up big time with Lillard out. He’s averaged 32 points, 10.7 assists, and 6.3 rebounds since the All-Star break. He scored 28 points against Indiana last month. With Lillard still missing time, McCollum will need to be at his best if Portland wants to stay in the playoff race.
- Arvydas’s son. Domantas Sabonis did something this season that his father—Portland great Arvydas Sabonis—never did: make an NBA All-Star team. That’s not entirely fair since the elder Sabonis played most of his prime overseas (he was 31 years old as a rookie). Still, the younger Sobonis has been having an excellent season. He’s averaging 18.3 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game and put up a triple-double with 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists in Portland.
- T.J. Warren. Sabonis is Indiana’s best overall player, but T.J. Warren is leading the team in scoring (barely) with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 37.2 percent from three. Portland’s Trevor Ariza did a good job of shutting down Warren in January. Warren scored 14 points, but shot only 5-of-13.
What they’re saying
J. Michael of the Indy Star explored the Pacers’ versatility:
The Pacers have adjusted their defensive schemes, such as mixing in 3-2 zone and no longer “icing,” or sending the ball baseline on side pick-and-rolls. But in a 119-80 rout of the Charlotte Hornets they also rolled out different personnel groupings. They have better pieces to work with to respond to a crisis now, unlike a season ago when Oladipo tore his right quad tendon.
Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows wrote that Thursday’s game is a good opportunity for Pacers to showcase their talent to a national TV audience:
This game at this time in the year offers a big opportunity for the Pacers to reestablish their strong level of play after floundering throughout most of February. Adding to the importance of the Blazers’ visit is the fact that the game will mark a rare national TV appearance for the Pacers on the TNT Thursday double-header with Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller in the house to call the game.
Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer wonders when Victor Oladipo (who has missed the past two games with back spasms) will return to form:
Oladipo needs more time and a longer runway to get fully healthy. It’s evident in little things like free throws. Oladipo has never been a free throw hound, but he is getting to the line only twice a game—his lowest mark ever. This entire process seems to have gunked up the flow of what the Pacers had going; they’re 3-7 in their past 10, including a heinous 46-point loss to the Raptors on Sunday, and have fallen to the no. 6 seed in the conference.
Bonus: Listen to Caitlin Cooper of Indy Cornrows preview the game on the Blazer’s Edge Podcast: