Blogtable: Lessons From Portland-Indy

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Big Apple busts | First off your bench | Blazers-Pacers

VIDEO: Blazers topple Pacers in an early-season East vs. West showdown

Portland-Indiana on Monday. What’d that tell you about the Blazers? About the Pacers?

Steve Aschburner, The game Monday told me I need to start staying up later more often for post-prime-time viewing of the Blazers on League Pass (though my alibi is iron-clad on this one, having sat through three overtimes at United Center Monday). It tells me I literally dare not sleep on Portland anymore. But it also tells me coach Terry Stotts was right in dismissing any notion of “statement game” in December. The Pacers arrived and left with the league’s best record, are several years beyond Portland in their life cycle as a contender and remain the more serious threat for May and June. Finally, it tells me I’ll want to be in Indianapolis on Feb. 7 when the Blazers show up there too.

Fran Blinebury, It told me the Blazers could stand up in the face of Indiana’s physical, rugged defensive game. It told me the Pacers were on the hind end of a back-to-back went the distance before losing a scorecard decision.

Jeff Caplan, First about the Pacers: A complete ball club, team-oriented, unselfish, defensive-minded. They’ve got a bona fide superstar on the wing, a very good big man in the middle, steady point guard play and now reserves that fit all the aforementioned descriptions. As for the Blazers, what a young core they’ve got being led by a mature, level-headed All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge. With a bright coach, the addition of guard Mo Williams popping off the bench and that hostile homecourt edge, watch out. Portland very quickly has emerged as one of the most fun teams in the league to watch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt didn’t tell me anything about the Pacers. A road loss on the second night of a back-to-back against a team playing well is nothing set against what had come the previous four weeks. Indy proved itself to be a serious threat in the East last season and is doing the same this season. But it was telling for Portland. While this has been a playoff team from opening night, wins like Monday can’t help but build confidence. Beating arguably the best team in the league after trailing the first three quarters and shooting 47 percent and scoring 106 points on that defense is a real benchmark about where the Trail Blazers are in December.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIt told me that the Blazers’ offense is legit. It was a fast-paced game, but they scored 106 points against the No. 1 defense in the league on the second night of a back-to-back. They’re a jump-shooting team, but that’s OK, because they can really shoot and Terry Stotts has them doing some cool stuff offensively. It also told me that Paul George is a top-five player. He was already a top-10 defender before this season and he has made such a leap offensively that he brings more to the table – when you consider both ends of the floor – than anybody but LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He’s in the 3-4-5 mix with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThat Monday night showdown in Portland between the Trail Blazers and Pacers was an absolute showcase of two up-and-coming teams (“young” is probably no longer an appropriate term for either bunch) that have all the ingredients you need for contender. The Blazers snuck up on all of us. Neil Olshey has put together a balanced group that has star power (Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge) and quality role players (Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, Robin Lopez, Thomas Robinson, etc.) that fit together perfectly. Terry Stotts has done a fine job managing the process for all involved. I picked the Pacers to be the Miami Heat’s biggest hurdle this season after watching them push the Heat to the brink in the Eastern Conference finals last season. They are, as they say, exactly who I thought they were. Paul George is a superstar in training and his supporting cast (yes, supporting cast) is as solid as it gets. The other thing I love about the Pacers is they embrace every challenge the way they did Monday night’s game. They don’t run from a good showdown. That’s a great quality to have in a contender. It reminds me of the way Oklahoma City played on their way up. Statement games early in the NBA season are often rendered useless by All-Star Weekend. Injuries and other circumstances tend to have that effect on these things. But I have a feeling that showcase Monday night will be referred to again, perhaps for both teams, at some point down the line.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: I came away thinking that as great as Indiana has been this season, they could still use one more piece — a perimeter player, ideally. I could see them using a veteran guard who can control the flow of a game and really control an offense. I’m not sure who that player should be, but I just got an incomplete feeling watching them play. As for Portland, my main question is one civic leaders there have talked about for a while: sustainability. Can the Blazers keep up their terrific outside shooting all season? And, more importantly, can they continue to capture the heart and hustle they showed against Indiana?

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: That game said that both teams are for real. I had no doubt about the Pacers, the best team in the league right now, but the Blazers proved once again they are among of the elite in the West. I still think they’re not deep enough to make a long run in the postseason, but their starting five is playing amazing basketball right now and they’ve earned the right to dream.

Xinbin Yang, NBA China: When Aldridge got a solid paint-zone partner, he really performed like Dirk three years ago. With Robin Lopez in the post, Aldridge has had to play five fewer minutes a game this year, and it’s liberated his offensive talent. The Blazers’ starting lineup was one of 5 the league’s best 5-man groups last season — it’s not shocking that they become much better, when they added so many weapons on the bench. George, in such a short time, has become a superstar talent. We know that. Going forward, the Pacers may need to explore sending George Hill to the bench, with his low efficiency. To me, Watson seems more suitable for the lineup of George-Hibbert-West-Lance.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Germany: The Blazers are for real, it seems. After they’ve upgraded their bench I wondered why most experts didn’t even see them making the playoffs. So far they’ve shown an improved defense, most notably Damian Lillard. Their offense has always been good. With the deeper roster they can now overcome weak games from one or a couple of their starters, the can play different styles and they have two legit stars in Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. It might be too much to declare them contenders, but the Blazers can scare lots of teams. The Pacers, on the other hand, are still the best team in the East.

VIDEO: The Starters: Portland is for real


  1. Brent says:

    Am I the only one this Blazers team didn’t sneak up on??

  2. BasKetballFreak says:

    Pacers are pacers ! But Blazers are for real #RESPECT…And PAUL GEORGE is BIG
    Best season in years !!!!!

  3. WhiteHot - BLAZERS says:

    I agree with the earlier poster. Back to back wins Sunday / Monday, one being on the road, the next against the league’s best….

    ….what fantasty world are you living in, Rich?

    The Blazers are here to stay, and they haven’t even gotten started yet.

    I look forward to a Miami / Portland Finals Series.

  4. RipCitySonic says:

    Both Indy and RipCity play team basketball. If they keep playing this way, they both will be top tiered playoff contenders along with a clear shot at becoming a championship team. OKC is coming off a shaky game in SacTown last night, and I’m going to look for the blazers to take full advantage of that along with every opportunity they receive. I do not like Terry Stotts, and I hope he doesn’t go back to his suicide playbook looking for nothing but threes. Keep up the teamwork, keep up the drive, post and pick and roll offense and tick down the pick and pop a tiche, and maybe I’ll soften up on Terry. Let’s Go RipCity!

  5. PalmOil Preference says:

    One thing I learned from these two teams they dominate you with superstar play and depth pertaining to thier roster. Also both teams are great offensively/defensively on the 3point line, mid-range, and paint leaving little holes in the respective teams.

  6. rich says:

    I still think one day the Blazers won’t be able to sustain their early) success, simply because they don’t have the depth to go to after the first 5 players. If one of their first 5 play bad, they”ll lose. If their opponents play good then they’re done also. Sorry I only see them like 7th at best in the west and I won;t be surprised either if they won’t make the playoffs.

    • chad says:

      You’re clearly oblivious to what’s going on apparently… there has been a handful of games already where one of the starting five did bad, and it didn’t seem to cause any issue at all… also saying there isn’t any depth or scoring options off the bench is pretty hilarious as well

      • rich says:

        Blazers don’t have a bench PERIOD. The crowd in the arena is their ‘bench’. If Aldridge, Batum or Lillard goes down then that’s their end.

    • Blazed duck says:

      Once CJ McCollum comes back from injury, the Blazers bench will be 5 strong. As, T-Rob matures he’ll snatch up more minutes. Our bench kept the game tight with the Okc starters. I appreciate the concern, but we’ll be fine. CJ, should be a huge lift for us off the bench. Go Blazers!

  7. spursfan says:

    portland is a top 4 team in the west and will have a 1st round upset. mind you.

  8. jake s. says:

    I agree with Sekou. It reminds me of the way OKC was playing during the 2011-2012 season.

  9. Game Time says:

    I’m still not sold on Paul George being a bonafide superstar. He keeps improving, but so does Indy each year as a team. Superstars are guys that have to carry the team during the worst times. I haven’t seen that yet from PG.

    • asdf says:

      Well, it was visible in this game. Plus he has an expanding skillset, just in the last playoffs people said George needs to develop a mid-range game and this season he is really confident with it. He still needs a little polish on offense, but I agree with John Schumman that he is a top 5 player.

  10. dd def says:

    that game was friggin’ amazing!!! i really like this pacers team, so i wouldn’t have been shocked or upset to see my blazers fall to them. but i love that gritty win. it’s so nice finally seeing the blazers get some attention unrelated to the injury report! hahaha.

  11. Sedare says:

    Fran Blinebury and Scott Howard-Cooper Made comments about that IND being on game 2 of a back to back.

    It should be noted that the Blazers were also on the rear end of a back to back and had even less time between games then IND did (as IND left LA after beating the Clippers in the matinee, and POR left LA after beating the Lakers in the 6:30 game tip).

    Basically, this should not be an excuse for IND. Vogel did an amazing job giving George and Hill more time on the bench for rest, as well as Hibbert but not as much. George was rested enough to come back in and hit 5 3 pt shots to keep IND inside a painfully close distance while LMA kept Portland alive. Then again Stotts rested Lillard more in the 1st quarter and gave him a slightly longer rest in the 4th in the middle before he came back, fresh, and nailed a 3pt right off the bench cold.

    Both teams are teams to watch in the future, and even tho the Pacers are now 1-1 vs teams over .500, they have proven how their defense can win a game… or in this game, keep them close enough vs very good teams.

    • True says:

      @Sedare But not all back-to-backs are created equal. Blazers cruised to a win over the LOLakers (similar to running practices on days off for most teams) while the Pacers played the Clippers which, I think we can all agree, are the better ergo more challenging LA team to play and win.

      • Sedare says:

        If you watched that game, Lakers made the Blazers earn it, and pushed the tempo. Portland was not able to rest their starters at all. They did not cruise to a win, Xavier Henry played an amazing game and made Portland work for the win.

        Was the clippers a harder game? Sure. But its not like they played a High School team here. The intensity is very close in all games played if the team is playing to win.

      • kek says:

        haha Blazers enden up having a thougher game than Indiana. Lakers bench killed the blazers that game. get you facts straight. Clippers werent even close winning that game vs Indiana, but the Lakers made the blazers work hard.