The Pacers, in the midst of a five-game trip, will be playing for the fourth time in six days. The Blazers are returning home after going 2-5 on an East Coast swing.
Indiana won the first two games of its trip, but was blown out 109-91 by Phoenix on Wednesday night. Playing for the second straight night, the Pacers never led and trailed 35-17 by the end of the first quarter.
“We didn’t play well enough early to give ourselves a chance,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, who was ejected in the fourth quarter. “Our undoing was the first quarter, when we were outscored by 18. Our energy level wasn’t where it needed to be early.”
Jermaine O’Neal had 25 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers. Now he makes another return to Portland to face the Blazers, who drafted him out of high school in the first round in 1996. O’Neal, who played four seasons with Portland before being dealt to Indiana in 2000, is winless in four trips to his old city.
The Blazers’ just-completed road trip had them playing in seven cities over 11 days. Portland finished up with back-to-back losses to Philadelphia and Washington.
Portland committed 21 turnovers and gave up 21 offensive rebounds Wednesday in a 96-89 defeat to the Wizards. Center Joel Przybilla had 17 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks, all season highs, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the sloppy ballhandling.
“I’m just going out there playing and getting a better feel for the players and the system,” Przybilla said. “It was a good night but we had 21 turnovers. That’s like giving them a 10- or 15-point lead at the beginning of the game.”
The Blazers have had major problems scoring and are tied with Houston for last in the league at 86.0 points per game. Only three Blazers are averaging double figures in points, and the team is shooting 29.6 percent from 3-point range. The 86.0 scoring average would be the lowest in team history.
STANDINGS (through Dec. 1): Pacers - 3rd place, 2 1/2 GB, Central Division. Trail Blazers - 4th place (tied), 2 1/2 GB, Northwest Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Pacers - F Ron Artest, F Austin Croshere, C O’Neal, G Stephen Jackson, G Jamaal Tinsley. Trail Blazers - F Darius Miles, F Zach Randolph, C Przybilla, G Sergei Monia, G Sebastian Telfair.
TEAM LEADERS: Pacers - O’Neal, 21.5 ppg and 10.6 rpg; Tinsley, 5.5 apg. Trail Blazers - Miles, 18.8 ppg; Randolph, 9.8 rpg; Telfair, 4.4 apg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Pacers, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: March 4, 2005; Pacers, 106-97. At Portland, Ore., Fred Jones had 23 points and eight assists for the Pacers, who won in Portland for the first time since Nov. 29, 1999. Indiana spoiled the debut of Blazers interim coach Kevin Pritchard, who replaced the fired Maurice Cheeks. O’Neal didn’t play because of a shoulder injury.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pacers - 4-3 on the road; Trail Blazers - 3-2 at home.