The Pacers played one of their few post-December clunkers last season at Portland, in a 20-point loss to the Blazers that was uglier than the score reveals. That was last year.
Since then, Paul George has taken another big leap. Lance Stephenson is bordering on reliable and brings a three-game double-double streak with him that also includes a triple-double. Oh, and Roy Hibbert is an entirely different defensive beast than he was last February when the Pacers left the Moda Center moaning with a loss.
The Blazers are a different beast, as well. For one, Damian Lillard is a year older after impressing me more than any other rookie last year. LaMarcus Aldridge has cleansed his game of whatever funk mucked it up last season which should make for an epic matchup with David West. Aldridge has the size and game to give West fits, so the ol' pro will have to dip into his bag of tricks to neutralize the matchup for the Pacers.
This game pits the league's best defense in the Pacers trying to stop one of the top offensive attacks in the Association. Depending on your preferred efficiency ratings, the Blazers offense is in the top three hovering around 107.5 points per 100 possessions just behind Miami and Houston. I'm certain the Pacers have seen those numbers and had the challenge highlighted in the game plan.
On the defensive end, the Blazers are in the bottom half of the league, giving up more than 100 points per 100 possessions which is right about where the Pacers OFFENSIVE efficiency lies. So, the first team to 100 could be a nice indicator of the eventual winner. For that Pacers, that would be a vast improvement over the 80 points they scored last time in Portland.
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