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Indiana Pacers vs. Portland Trail Blazers Preview

Pascal Siakam and the Indiana Pacers blow into town to face the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland Trail Blazers v Indiana Pacers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Some epic winter weather couldn’t keep the Portland Trail Blazers down as they defeated the Brooklyn Nets by the score of 105-103. While most residents of Portland feel like they are 50% made of ice at this point, Anfernee Simons does in fact have ice in his veins as he canned the winning shot with a fraction of a second left on the scoreboard.

The Indiana Pacers couldn’t be more excited as they will likely see Pascal Siakam in a Pacers uniform for the first time after a stunning trade with Toronto. They’ll have to do it though on a quick turnaround. On Thursday night they defeated the Sacramento Kings 126-121 before braving the ice storm in Portland.

Indiana Pacers (24-17) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (11-29) - Friday, Jan. 19 - 7:00 p.m. Pacific

How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass

Trail Blazers injuries: Robert Williams III (out), Moses Brown (out), Shaedon Sharpe (out), Anfernee Simons (questionable)

Pacers injuries: Aaron Nesmith (out), Andrew Nembhard (out)

What To Watch For

  • Pascal Siakam. As of this writing Siakam is expected to be available. Just when the Blazers thought they were catching a break with Haliburton unavailable they find out that they are likely to host the debut of Siakam. The Pacers already lead the league in effective field goal percentage; now they are adding a guy who over the last 10 games has shot 56.9% from the field and 53.3% from deep. When Siakam is used correctly he can also open space for his teammates, so the potential is there for his teammates to get even better looks than they have been getting. On paper this looks like a can’t-miss trade for Indiana.
  • Defense. So what are the Pacers not good at? Defense. They are 27th in the NBA in defensive rating, 27th in defensive rebound percentage, 27th in opponent second chance points and last in the NBA in opponent points in paint. Against most opponents it just doesn’t make any difference. If the opponet scores a lot of points, Indiana will just score more. It’s hard to see how that won’t be the case against the Blazers too.
  • Trap game for the Pacers? Let’s not get too excited here, but the schedule does favor the Blazers. Portland is reasonably well-rested while being at home, winter storm notwithstanding. Indiana by contrast is on a six game road trip that spans from Atlanta to the Pacific Northwest, and are on the second night of a back-to-back. On top of that they’ll be travelling into an ice storm. If the Blazers can get out of their driveways one would think that they would be more fresh.

What Others Are Saying

Danny Chau of The Ringer loves the fit of Siakam in Indiana.

It’s hard not to see a seamless fit for both player and team. The Raptors offense has long been fueled by transition points, and Siakam’s dual-threat ability as a finisher and on-ball initiator will only add more dimension to Indiana’s breakneck attack. He accentuates the good, but he’ll also help fix the bad. There will be stretches in the postseason when Indiana will need to capitalize on all the open space defenses leave in the midrange, and having an effective, high-volume midrange scorer like Siakam completes their offensive jigsaw. Carlisle had the pleasure of building an efficient offense on the backs of two superlative post operators in Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic in Dallas; it was about time he got another crack at it in his return to Indiana.

Dan Devine of Yahoo! Sports also is positive about Indiana’s big swing for the fences.

What this deal represents, though, is a different kind of bet for the Pacers. It’s a wager that this pre-prime version of Haliburton — the one who has led them to the NBA’s No. 1 offense and an 11-5 record against Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Miami and New York — is good enough to justify pushing some chips into the middle of the table right now.

It’s also a wager that, after playing in some of the most spacing-cramped and shooting-devoid environments the NBA has had to offer over the past few years, they can make Siakam feel like he’s somehow teleported to a harmonic new plane of offensive existence.

Tony East of All Pacers looks at how the Pacers are playing without Tyrese Haliburton.

What stood out about the Pacers offensive approach in Atlanta was their creativity. Point guard Andrew Nembhard was posting up, something he has rarely done this season, to generate good looks.

The Pacers’ cuts were crisp, and they moved the ball well. Atlanta’s defense is poor, but the blue and gold attacked the paint and didn’t settle for threes, taking a season-low 18 shots from beyond the arc.