The Blazers will try to win their sixth straight in this series Friday night at Conseco Fieldhouse, where the Pacers will go for a season-best third consecutive victory under interim coach Frank Vogel.
With Greg Oden(notes) and Elliot Williams(notes) out for the season and Brandon Roy(notes) and Marcus Camby(notes) also nursing knee injuries that make it uncertain when they’ll return, the Blazers (26-23) have lost 164 man games to injury.
Matthews, who scored 17 of his team-high 19 points in the opening 18 minutes, needed help to get to the locker room after hurting his ankle.
“That’s the ankle that’s been messed up,” said Matthews, who initially injured it two weeks ago during practice. “I heard some pops, heard and felt some pops. It calmed down and I was able to return again.”
The Blazers’ second-year guard, averaging 16.3 points, scored 19 with a career-best nine assists in a 97-92 home win over the Pacers (19-27) on Jan. 22. Portland rallied from 16 down to win its season-high fifth straight.
While the Trail Blazers have lost three of four since that matchup at the Rose Garden, the Pacers are feeling better about their play under Vogel, who replaced the fired Jim O’Brien on Sunday.
After handing Toronto its 12th straight loss in Vogel’s debut Monday, Indiana faced another last-place Eastern Conference opponent Wednesday, sending Cleveland to its 22nd consecutive defeat with a 117-112 road victory.
The Pacers last won three in a row during a 4-0 run from April 4-10.
“These guys are believing that everything is changing right now,” Vogel said. “We are changing our season around. We are changing our team around. They believe that we are on the way back.”
Indiana is one game behind Charlotte for the final East playoff spot.
Pacers president Larry Bird, who was not pleased with how O’Brien handled the team’s young players, must be happy with how Roy Hibbert(notes), Tyler Hansbrough(notes) and Paul George(notes) have played under Vogel.
Hibbert totaled 37 points and 21 rebounds in the last two games, while Hansbrough and George have averaged a combined 28.0 points in those contests.
Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge(notes), who had 25 points and 12 rebounds in that matchup, scored 20 points with eight boards in the teams’ last meeting at Conseco - a 102-91 Portland victory Dec. 9, 2009.
Portland has won two in a row at Indiana after losing five straight as a visitor in the series.
The Pacers will try to win three consecutive home games for the first time since April 4-10.