This game does not bode well for the Blazers. The 26-16 Pacers, good for 1st place in the Central Division, come in on a two game win streak. Their defense is top notch and the Blazers’ defense is… not. Offensively, the Pacers are less dangerous, but this is a daunting team to see coming out of the tunnel when you’re trying to snap a six-game losing streak. I was trying to find a weird trend, but every series against the East has been split so far (except for the Wizards who got the Blazers 2-0). Portland may come out on fire and show their offensive chops; more likely, they struggle to get good looks as the Pacers key in on the their few threats. The last Pacers game I watched was an unwatchable mess that ended in a very exciting 81-76 in favor of Indiana. So take that for what you will.
I really enjoy small forwards that do a little of everything, like Nicolas Batum and Paul George. The two are posting similar numbers and while Batum already has a reputation as an elite defender, Paul George is earning his this season. I mention these similarities because while Batum has finally discovered consistency and improved many parts of his game, George has been straight killing it these past few games. Nic needs to have a big game to help push the Blazers over the top and end the streak. And he knows it, because while a triple double is nice, it’s not always enough to prevent a loss.
Some findings from the Hollinger Power Rankings:
Over the second quarter of the season, the Blazers’ margin fell as their schedule got stiffer: On the season they’re being outscored by an average of 2.24 points against opponents batting a collective .487, while the second quarter of the season saw a slate of .500 foes outgun the Blazers by an average 3.27. Looks like that schedule is catching up.
Conversely, the Pacers are getting better while facing tougher teams. Their opponents’ SOS rose slightly to .475, as compared to a .472 season average, while their average margin of victory improved more than a point in a half in that same span.
So it looks like the Pacers are getting stronger against better teams, while the Blazers are starting to buckle a bit under the schedule’s weight. That makes an unlikely win against the Pacers take on an outsize importance, with matchups against the Clippers and Mavericks on the way.
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