Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 1/23/13
What in the world is going on? The Portland Trail Blazers have fallen into a complete rut. They’ve lost a season-high six straight games and they’ve spent way to much energy in comebacks if they hope to make a push late in the year. Matchup: Portland (20-21) vs. Indiana Pacers (26-16) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 The Blazers need to turn things around, and that can’t be said any other way. The winning ways must return to Rip City if they want to have a successful season, and that needs to begin immediately with the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night. The Blazers need a victory against the Indiana Pacers. (Michael Conroy/AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up We all know about the Blazers’ current losing streak, but what fans in Portland may not be aware of is that Indiana is in the midst of their longest winning streak against West Coast opponents since 2004. Dating back to Dec. 19, the Pacers have taken down five different Western Conference teams, including the Memphis Grizzlies twice. The Blazers haven’t lost five in a row at the Rose Garden since April 2006, and they’ll have to win Wednesday night to avoid tying that mark. What to Watch: Portland Forget about closing out games. Everybody wants to talk about how the Blazers have lost their last six games in close fashion, but closing out games isn’t the problem. This team needs to start games better on both sides of the floor. Defensively, Portland was awful in its most recent home loss to the Washington Wizards. The road team was allowed to shoot 90 percent in the first six minutes of the game, and they ended up finishing the first quarter with 34 points. No drastic comeback was necessary to stay close Monday night, as Washington’s defense also struggled, but a better start would have forced the Wizards into a situation where they were the ones in trouble. Portland needs to start every game with the same urgency that they have in the final minutes of a close contest. If they can do that, they’ll make life much easier on themselves in crunch time. What to Watch: Indiana The Indiana Pacers are the epitome of a defensive NBA team. They allow the fewest points per game (89.1), they block the second-most shots (7.0) and they hold their opponents to the lowest field-goal percentage in the Association (41.3). Offensively, that’s where the script gets flipped. They are near the bottom of the league in points per game, they shoot an awful percentage and they struggle to move the ball on a regular basis. This team is 26-16 despite their offensive deficiencies, which is a clear indication of just how good they are at shutting down their opponents. Paul George will face off against Nicolas Batum Wednesday night. (Photo: Getty Images) If you’re Portland, you have to have a great game on one end of the floor. Either challenge their defense and make them score points, or accept a low-scoring battle and edge them out defensively. Key Matchup Paul George is one of the best up-and-coming forwards in the NBA, yet he is one who most casual fans have never even heard of. At 22 years old, he is averaging 17.2 points per game and he is one of the best players on one of the best teams out East. Come Wednesday night, he is going to be matched up against one of the other best up-and-comers at his position, Nicolas Batum. These two players have yet to establish themselves as All-Stars, but they’re both headed in the right direction. Both know how to impact a game in a multitude of areas, and both will create for one of the most dynamic battles on the floor. Injury Report Portland: QUESTIONABLE—Damian Lillard, DAY-TO-DAY—Nicolas Batum, Sasha Pavlovic Indiana: DAY-TO-DAY—Danny Granger, Ian Mahinmi, Gerald Green Prediction One upon a time, home-court advantage would have been enough for the Blazers to take down the Pacers—but not any more. Blazers 90 – Pacers 96 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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