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Battling Down Low is Key for Indiana Pacers to Beat Portland Trail Blazers

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Bob Donnan – USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers enter tonight’s game as one of the best teams in the wes, with a record of 35-14 and an away record of 16-9. The Trail Blazers began the season blazing hot, yet they have gone 2-3 in their last five games and have scored over 100 points just once. Led by All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lilliard, “Rip City” leads the league in three-pointers made and trails only the Detroit Pistons in offensive rebounding. A large part of Portland’s game is to beat up the boards down low and hold onto the ball while on offense, allowing them to be second overall in three-point FG percentage and third in the league on the glass.

The Pacers enter tonight’s matchup with the best record in the East and second overall in the NBA at 38-10, only trailing the Oklahoma City Thunder. Owning a league leading home record of 23-2, playing fundamental basketball has been a huge part of Frank Vogel‘s team’s success. Winners of four of their last five, the Pacers will look to lock down the efficient Portland offense, something they have done very well at home. In their last three meetings in Indiana, the Pacers have held the Trail Blazers to 92, 75, and 87 points en route to victories in all three matchups. Led by All-Stars Roy Hibbert and Paul George, the Pacers will have to step up their game tonight in order to get some payback on the Blazers who swept the Pacers in both 2013 meetings. One of biggest factors for Indiana’s success this season has been rebounding — currently first overall in rebounding percentage — and their defense — holding opposing shooters to just 41 percent from the field.

If either team is to win they will have to take advantage of turnovers. Because of the similar styles of play, both teams are ranked very closely in offensive possessions per game, putting extra emphasis on turnovers down the stretch. This could bode well for the Trail Blazers who are +1.79 in turnover differential on the year compared to just +.04 for Indiana.

If I were a betting man, though, I would have to choose the hot hand here and pick the Pacers. Their home record of 23-2 is unreal, and they should be able to hold down Portland’s offense enough to pull out a win. You can bet that the crowd will be amped up for this game, making it one of the best options to watch tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

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