INDIANAPOLIS -- The Portland Trail Blazers will make their one and only visit of the season to Indianapolis on Saturday night to take on the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers (11-12) are returning home from a five-game Western Conference road trip. They finished the trip 2-3 and lost to the league's worst team, the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night 111-103.
"We are consistently inconsistent right now," said guard Aaron Brooks. The Pacers have been within two games of .500 the entire season, and have never won or lost more than two straight games. When it looks like they've turned the corner, they suffer another loss like the one on Friday night.
"We needed to bring more energy on the defensive end, and that didn't happen," coach Nate McMillan said. "We leave off this road trip with just two wins and have a team waiting on us at home. We've got to get back to it."
For the season, the Pacers have been a lot better on their home court. They're 8-4 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, compared to 3-8 away from it. Playing a back-to-back after a long Western trip will be no easy task, however, even at home. The Blazers were one of the teams the Pacers just saw on this trip, and Portland scored 131 points in that win over Indiana.
Portland (12-12) is coming off a tough loss to Memphis on Thursday night. Late free throws by Toney Douglas put the Blazers away.
"It was a tough loss," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Our offense all game struggled. We struggled to make shots, and we didn't finish around the rim."
Both teams are in similar positions in the standings, but in different conferences. There could be a lot of points scored in this game, as the Blazers are second worst in the NBA in defensive rating (109.1 points per 100 possessions given up). The Pacers are 11th worst in the same statistic and, as previously mentioned, will be playing on a back-to-back after a long trip out west.
Coming into Friday night, these two teams were 8th and 9th in the league in pace of play.
Damian Lillard is a tough matchup for the Pacers. He scored 28 points to go along with 10 assists in their win over Indiana earlier this season. He averaged 29.5 points in the two games against the Pacers last season.
Conversely, Pacers star Paul George only averaged 11 points in the two games against the Blazers last season, his lowest average against any team. He was injured and did not play against Portland when these teams matched up recently.
Like the Pacers, Portland has played a lot better at home. They are just 5-8 on the road to start the season.
After missing Thursday's game against the Grizzlies, starting small forward Maurice Harkless has been upgraded to probable for Saturday's game (NBA.com). He's averaging 13.0 points per game this season and is an important part of the Blazers success. Despite that bit of good news for Portland, forward Al-Farouq Aminu has been downgraded to doubtful for the game with a back contusion.
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