The light at the end of the tunnel
The Portland Trail Blazers have played their last six games away from the Rose Garden, but they’ll be headed back home once their final contest of the seven-game road trip concludes on Wednesday.
Matchup: Portland (8-10) @ Indiana Pacers (9-9)
Venue: Bankers Life Fieldhouse
Time: 4:00 PM PT
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012
The trip hasn’t gone how the team planned, but they have a chance to finish strong with a big win over the Indiana Pacers.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
The Blazers and the Pacers have two distinct differences: offense and defense.
Indiana has been an excellent defensive team this season. They’re allowing just 91.9 points per game, which is good enough for third in the league, and they’re pulling down 47.4 rebounds per contest, which is good enough for first. Portland struggles in both of those categories, as they are 27th in the NBA in points allowed and 28th in rebounding.
Offensively, the Trail Blazers have the advantage. They haven’t been great this year, but their 97.5 points-per-game average is far more impressive than Indiana’s 90.9, which is second-worst in the league.
When opposing teams have contrasting strengths and weaknesses, something’s got to give, and in this matchup, it will be a battle between Portland’s offense and Indiana’s defense.
What to Watch: Portland
The Trail Blazers are going up against the top rebounding team in the entire NBA on Wednesday, which means they must put up a fight on the boards all over their roster.
J.J. Hickson has been the standout rebounder this year. As a 6’9”, undersized center, he is pulling down 10.3 rebounds per game, and he’s had 10 double-digit rebounding outputs. Nicolas Batum also deserves credit, as he’s averaging a career-high 5.9 boards per contest on the year.
The problem is, the Blazers are struggling to find rebounding production anywhere else on the roster. LaMarcus Aldridge is putting up his worst rebounding numbers since his rookie season, Meyers Leonard is only averaging 3.8 off the bench and nobody else is bringing down more than 3.3 rebounds per game.
The Pacers don’t have any outstanding rebounders of their own, but they have more balance in that category across their rotation. Portland has to box out everybody on the floor against Indiana, and they have to get 100 percent effort out of everyone in this matchup.
What to Watch: Indiana
Indiana is near the bottom of the league in virtually every major scoring category, but one area where they excel is in the fast break.
The Pacers are 12th in the league in fast-break points this season, and they’re No. 1 when it comes to transition efficiency. They don’t get out and run much, as they play at just the 26th-fastest pace in the NBA, but when they do play an up-tempo style, it’s to their benefit.
If the Blazers can keep Indiana from getting out on the break, they’ll make it tough for a poor offense to score. Portland can’t afford to give up any easy buckets, especially considering how good the Pacers have been defensively this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge may earn more national attention than fellow power forward David West, but the two will match up quite nicely Wednesday night in Indiana.
West is a forward who is deadly in the mid-range game. His pick-and-pop abilities make it easy for his point guards to make plays, his jump shot is as dangerous as it comes for a big man and his ball-handling skills are good enough to make plays for his teammates when he attacks the basket.
Sound familiar? Aldridge has been the same kind of player virtually his entire career. Aldridge has the height, length and athleticism, but the two play an extremely similar brand of basketball.
Both Aldridge and West are averaging about one block per game this season, but their primary roles will always be on the offensive end, and that notion won’t change when they face off Wednesday.
Portland may be coming off back-to-back wins, but it’s tough to imagine them taking down a more talented Indiana team on the road.