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On the Pacers being where Portland East meets Portland West

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[insert spider-man pointing at spider-man meme, here]

Indiana Pacers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers haven’t won a road game in Portland since 2007-08, when Brandon Roy was on the brink of becoming a first-time All-Star, LaMarcus Aldridge was a promising young big out of Texas, and Nate McMillan was coaching a rebuilding team to 41 wins with Kevin Pritchard in charge of roster decisions.

Sounds familiar, right?

To be fair, the comparisons aren’t perfect. Roy wowed with his ability to shift gears with deceptive speed and intuitive savvy while playing at a controlled pace, whereas Oladipo is like a blur to the rim even when his defender ducks under ball screens in an effort to keep him out of the paint. Where the two are starting to more closely intersect is with the development of the latter’s step-back jump shot.

Before his degenerative knees betrayed him, Roy was masterful at creating space for himself by convincingly selling the first few steps of a drive. More and more, Oladipo is giving his man the slide by stopping on a dime and dribbling the ball between his legs before squaring himself to the basket.

As for Turner, he has a similarly smooth face-up game to that of early-career Aldridge, but the pick-and-pop assassin’s year-over-year growth has experienced some stagnation at a point in which the now five-time All-Star was more steadily on the ascent.

Of course, it also begs mentioning that those Blazers were unknowingly already on track to be derailed by a series of ominous injuries to the team’s key building block, which (crosses fingers) hasn’t been the case for these Pacers.

Still, from exceeding expectations — whether with improbable comebacks or an unlikely 13-game win streak — to somewhat maddeningly tallying fewer than 100 possessions per 48 minutes, the parallels between the two charismatic squads are easy to draw.

The most obvious being that they share the same decision-makers.

There was some trepidation (at least on behalf of this writer) when Nate McMillan, Bill Bayno, Kevin Pritchard, and Chad Buchanan gradually came to be reunited with the Pacers.

Granted, there is likely comfort in working among those who are familiar, particularly when it’s possible to draw on past shared learning experiences as well as successes. However, in the event that the team at some point underachieves, getting the band back together also seems to bring with it the potential for the tight-knit group to perpetually shift the onus onto the performance of the players rather than team building or coaching.

As it’s been, Turner’s lack of comparative touches along with the team’s affinity for mid-range twos are lingering concerns, but McMillan deserves plenty of credit for his decision to allow Bojan Bogdanovic to attempt to hold his head above water against the league’s top scorers in order to give Oladipo the opportunity to roam and unlock his game with steals, transition baskets, pull-up threes, and trips to the line.

By comparison to last season, Indiana’s offensive efficiency has made the jump from middling to sixth best in the league. At least in part, this is because the improved balance of the roster has better empowered the team’s coach to enable his players to compete for and with each other.

Tonight, McMillan’s team will attempt to break an eight-game losing streak in the Moda Center (formerly known as the Rose Garden), but the trajectory of Indiana’s opponent will no longer match the team they last beat there. Rather, their salary cap flexibility will stand in stark contrast to a new regime currently hamstrung from its willingness to indulge the excesses of the summer of 2016.

All of which is to say that maybe the Pacers being where Portland East meets Portland West shouldn’t evoke paranoid fear? Perhaps, with the added benefit of the luck that those post 2007-08 Blazers teams lacked, it should inspire envy.

Listen to that full conversation along with the following rundown of topics on the Blazer’s Edge podcast hosted by Tara Bowen-Biggs and Danny Marang, here:

  • How have the Pacers adjusted to the big changes that occurred over the summer?
  • Portland East
  • Victor Oladipo versus Brandon Roy
  • Myles Turner’s surprising place in the pecking order. He’s been pigeonholed in the offense as a pick-and-pop threat, but his scoring arsenal hasn’t exactly diversified, either. So, which beget which?
  • Hallmarks of this Pacers team. What should Portland expect to see tonight? (And, yes, I mistakenly said that the 21-year-old shot-blocker is dealing with a wrist injury, when he has actually been diagnosed with a ligament sprain and muscle strain in his right elbow. My bad.)
  • Are there any tell-tale signs that the Pacers are executing according to plan?
  • Sabonis’ direct link to the Blazers and his place on this Pacers team.
  • Why did Portland’s offensive and defensive efficiency seemingly trade places? Did they really?
  • Spotlighting the lesser-known players that Portland fans should be watching.
  • The Pacers’ historic difficulty on trips to Portland.
  • Oh, by the way, the Pacers and Blazers have something else in common: Evan Turner.
  • Are the Pacers fans happy about the success versus tanking?
  • The Pacers’ youth and how that factors into this current season and how it compares to the league.