Indiana Pacers (16-1) at Portland Trailblazers (14-3)
The Indiana Pacers are coming off a big win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Portland Trailblazers are playing the second night of a back-to-back after a tough loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Indiana and Portland meet tonight at the Moda Center in what could be the Pacers’ toughest test to date this season. Sure, they played the Chicago Bulls twice with Derrick Rose on the floor. And yes, Indiana just defeated L.A. at the Staples Center. However, the second game of this western trip is also the second of a back-to-back versus one of the West’s top teams.
In fact, four of the Indiana Pacers’ five opponents of this trip out west just so happen to be four of the top five teams in the Western Conference standings.
Indiana’s win over the Clippers said a lot about the team’s resiliency. After leading by double-digits for almost the entire third quarter, Los Angeles rallied to tie things up in the fourth. But Indiana gutted out the win behind their defense and rebounding.
Things won’t get any easier tonight at Portland. The ‘Blazers have one of the best young guards in Damian Lillard, and, arguably, the top power forward in the league.
Indiana will face “the best power forward in the NBA,” according to David West. He is referring to LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge is big, long and athletic, three traits that are tough to come by in the NBA. West is certainly big, but not as long and athletic as Aldridge, thus making this matchup the most intriguing for tonight’s game.
Lillard can do it all. He can put up points in a hurry, shoot the long-range shot, isolate and drive to the hoop, and create for his teammates. I would expect, yet again, the trio of George Hill, Lance Stephenson and C.J.Watson to all get the assignment of slowing Lillard. Indiana should respect his game as much as Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. Lillard is that talented.
West and Hill also need to make Aldridge and Lillard, respectively, play defense. That will wear them out a little more throughout the course of the game.
Paul George will have a tough time on offense against Frenchman Nicolas Batum. Batum is a terrific defender and has a nice offensive game. I still see George putting up 20+, but he should be patient and look for the open man at all times.
This may be the most difficult game to predict thus far for the Indiana Pacers. It is the second night of a back-to-back for both teams. Indiana does have a winning streak in their favor. Portland will attempt many threes against the Pacers’ stifling defense.
I like Indiana 102-97 in an overtime victory.