Pacers-Trail Blazers Preview

Coach Nate McMillan knew LaMarcus Aldridge had the potential to

be a dominant NBA player when the Portland Trail Blazers traded for

him in a draft day deal in 2006. McMillan is pleased to see him

living up to those expectations.

Aldridge and the Blazers try to win a season-high fifth straight

Saturday night when they go for their fifth consecutive victory

over the Indiana Pacers.

Now in his fifth season after the Blazers acquired the No. 2

pick from Chicago, Aldridge is the team’s No. 1 scoring option with

Brandon Roy (knees) out indefinitely.

With Roy sidelined the last 18 games, Aldridge has averaged 25.9

points and 10.1 rebounds, increasing his career-high averages this

season to 21.3 and 8.8 per game.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” McMillan told the Blazers’

official website after Aldridge had 28 points in Thursday’s 108-93

victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

“I really have. I said this to LaMarcus when he was drafted …

Most players coming into the league and they either play one or the

other – you’re a good defender or a scorer. This is special because

he can do both.”

Those skills could earn Aldridge his first All-Star game

appearance. More importantly, his presence on the defensive end

will be critical as the Blazers (24-20) will be without starting

center Marcus Camby for the next few weeks after he had

arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday.

Despite another season marred by injuries, Portland is eighth in

the Western Conference and enters Saturday looking to win five in a

row for the first time since March 9-19.

The Blazers, averaging 101.2 points while going 11-2 at the Rose

Garden since the beginning of December, continue their five-game

homestand against a Pacers team that has dropped 11 of 12 on the

road.

Indiana (16-23) is halfway through a four-game trip and lost its

third straight overall Wednesday, falling 110-108 to Golden State

on Monta Ellis’ last-second shot over Brandon Rush.

The Pacers led by as many as 11 points but were done in by 20

turnovers.

“We can’t give up 27 points on turnovers if we want to win,”

coach Jim O’Brien said. “… We did not execute that part of the

game plan and that’s why we lost. Turnovers killed us and that is

the bottom line.”

Indiana committed 18 turnovers in a 102-79 loss at Portland on

March 3 in the teams’ last meeting as the Blazers completed a

second straight season sweep of the Pacers.

Danny Granger was the only Indiana player to score in double

figures in that matchup with 30 points, and he scored 32 for a

second consecutive game Wednesday but also had a game-high seven

turnovers.

Although the loss of Camby leaves a big hole in the middle of

the Blazers’ defense, Indiana’s struggles on the defensive end

could continue if center Roy Hibbert misses a second straight game

with an upper respiratory infection.

The Pacers are among the best in the league in field-goal

percentage defense (43.9), but their last two opponents have shot a

combined 52.7 percent while averaging 112.0 points.

Indiana, which last dropped four in a row March 2-6, will try to

avoid a fifth consecutive loss to Portland after winning the

previous nine matchups.