Blazers 95, Pacers 85: Playoff Train Leaving The Station

The Indiana Pacers spent a little over two hours marinating in reality at the Fieldhouse last night, as they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, 95-85.

This was the Pacers fourth-straight, must-win game which ended up as a double-digit loss. The comparison of the Pacers with the visiting Blazers provided a stark contrast.

The Pacers entered the game in a desperate state. Three games behind in the playoff race with five teams to jump, the playoff train was starting to leave and the Pacers were still at the station. Unfortunately there didn't appear to be any panic. No one was running and screaming and doing whatever it took to catch the train and hop on. Instead the Pacers just stood there as the train took off.

On the other side, the Blazers were on point, playing with purpose, preparing for bigger and better things in the playoffs this year. Forget Brandon Roy's numbers (not bad, 20, 6, 6), when he's on the court the team rises to an impressive level of play. The Blazers defensive effort was far better than we saw two weeks ago in Portland. T.J. Ford and Jarret Jack weren't welcomed in the lane all night and the result was 20 fewer points this time around.

Troy Murphy's absence helped the Blazers defend the paint better since Murph wasn't around to draw a defender out to the 3-point arc. The Blazers took advantage and there were stretches late in the first quarter and in the third quarter when the Pacers struggled to get a good shot. The Pacers were simply held under the Blazers' thumb and the fight, the sense of urgency, the desperation was missing.

All of this was happening while three teams ahead of the Pacers in the standings were winning, including the Bulls which puts the Pacers down four games with 13 left to play. The math is even too complicated to cling to now and the Pacers seem to be playing like they've come to grips with reality.

A few other thoughts:

  • Danny Granger played 34 minutes, took 24 shots and ended the game with 35 points and 10 rebounds. Nice to see Danny running around like he did before the foot injury. I could've done with fewer shots as Granger forced a few too many for my taste. There were times with the offense didn't flow because it stopped with 33.
  • Josh McRoberts played about 10 minutes and was neither spectacular nor horrible. He's an active, athletic player in the front court and as he has shown in the past, brings some energy and tries to make things happen when he plays. He finished with 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a block during his minutes split up over two runs,
  • Roy Hibbert played 30 minutes without fouling out, which is an improvement considering the Blazers like to get the ball to the hoop. Roy finished with 14 points, 2 blocks and 2 steals, but only 4 rebounds.
  • Greg Oden looked pretty good in his pro debut at Conseco Fieldhouse, returning to the court after sitting out to recover from a knee injury. Oden was solid at the defensive end. He only had one block but he altered a few shots. He still has plenty of room to grow, especially at the offensive end.

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