Thursday, January 26, 2023
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NBA Preview: Indiana Pacers at Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard will once again attempt to relocate his shooting touch when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

A six-time All-Star known for his long-range bombing, Lillard has connected on just 35.3 percent of his field-goal attempts through Portland’s first eight games. He has been even more anemic from 3-point range, making just 23.4 percent (18 of 77).

Lillard’s start has been so dismal that Wednesday’s shaky 10-of-27 shooting (37 percent) is his third best of the campaign. But the last shot was the most painful, as Lillard missed a 3-pointer at the end of the team’s 107-104 road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I took a peek over at CJ (McCollum), but it looked like I’d get a clean look after I came off the screen,” Lillard said afterward. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t even use a screen. I’d just go right into it.”

The 26-point effort was the highest of the season for Lillard, who is averaging 19.5 points this season after putting up 28.8 per game last season and 30.0 the previous campaign.

Portland is back at home briefly for games against the Pacers and Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday after an 0-3 road trip.

“It’s a disappointing trip, in my opinion, because I felt like we could have won every single game,” first-year Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups told reporters. “Every single game I feel like we had a chance and could have won them all and don’t win one.

“So it is a disappointing trip. I’m pretty sure all those guys in the locker room probably feel the same way. But we can’t get ’em back, the schedule just keeps going.”

Norman Powell (season-best 23 points) and McCollum (21) joined Lillard in topping the 20-point mark against Cleveland.

The Pacers have won back-to-back games following a 1-6 start.

Indiana is opening a four-game road trip and beginning a stretch in which it plays eight of its next 10 on the road.

Big man Myles Turner had a stellar outing in Wednesday’s 111-98 home win over the New York Knicks as he knocked down a career-high seven 3-pointers while recording 25 points and a season-best 13 rebounds.

The long-range barrage was stunning, as Turner entered the contest with 11 made 3-pointers on the season.

“I’ve got the green light to shoot it,” Turner said. “That’s not going to be the case night-in and night-out, but if that’s the case, I’m going to let it fly.”

Caris LeVert added 21 points while playing in the same game as Malcolm Brogdon (17 points, eight rebounds, seven assists) for the first time this season.

LeVert missed the first six games of the season due to a stress fracture in his back, while Wednesday’s game marked Brogdon’s return from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for three games.

LeVert thought the duo had a solid effect on the defensive end in a contest in which New York made just 5 of 24 3-point attempts.

“We knew if we got stops on that end, we would get easy baskets in transition,” LeVert said. “Malcolm was preaching in every huddle that we had just to keep getting stops and lock in on defense. I think we did that. We held them under 100 points and they couldn’t really score in the fourth quarter.”

The Pacers aren’t dreading this visit to Portland as much as most years because they notched a convincing 111-87 victory in last season’s stop. That ended an 11-game slide in Portland dating back to a victory on Nov. 28, 2007.

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