Right now, this is the best game the NBA has to offer – The Indiana Pacers and the Portland Trail Blazers. While the Eastern Conference leaders relied too much just on Paul George, the best in the West had a bit more of their fantastic offensive game spread around, spearheaded as usual by LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, leading their team to a 106-102 win.
Paul George scored 43 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter as Nicolas Batum couldn’t stop him, no way-no how. The problem was the rest of the Pacers were slightly blinded by the lights, This team isn’t built to be about one guy doing all the offensive work while the rest observe. George took 30 field goal attempts, including 15 from beyond the arc. Aside from him, the Pacers shot only 39.6% from the field, as George Hill and Lance Stephenson scored a combined 8 points on 2-of-11 from the field.
The Blazers are a bit more about spreading the wealth, being one of the most enjoyable teams to watch in the league. LaMarcus Aldridge had his 8th double double of the season, scoring 28 points and adding 10 rebounds, while Damian Lillard put on quite the shooting show in the fourth quarter, possibly inspired by George’s shooting, finishing with 26 points, making both of his three pointers in the final period. It was his 100th career game in the NBA, becoming the third player to start his first 100 games.
The Pacers aren’t really an exact representation of everything going on in the Eastern Conference this season, which is mostly about the Miami Heat and them, nothing else. The Blazers are still 8-0 against teams from that conference, which helps explains their 15-3 record to start the season. It is the first time since the shortened season of 1998-1999 that they’ve start this well – that season ended with a conference finals appearance. An even better, 17-1 start in the 1990-1991 season, resulted with them also making the conference finals.
Without injuries, it’s going to be enough. There are few lineups as balanced and efficient as the one the Blazers use throughout the game. It doesn’t have five players that can score at any point, with Robin Lopez being the weak link, but he’s not someone the ball avoids, not to mention his importance under the basket and on the boards. Wesley Matthews finished with 15 points, while Nicolas Batum had a very rough night against the man who might be the hottest player in the NBA right now, scoring only 9 points.
Roy Hibbert wasn’t the happiest man in the world after the game, suggesting Aldridge uses some dirty tricks to have his way in the paint, but he knows just how good the Blazers are, suggesting the two will meet in the NBA finals. If things keep going this way for both teams, and the Pacers don’t have to rely just on Paul George to get through their tougher opponents, that prediction might turn out to be true in a few months.