Hot-shooting Blazers face reworked Pacers

The Indiana Pacers will have to deal with the emotional aftereffects of having traded away one of their top players when they visit the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Indiana had a hand in the blockbuster James Harden-to-Brooklyn deal on Wednesday, agreeing to send Victor Oladipo to Houston while getting Caris LeVert from the Nets in exchange.

Coming off an injury-plagued 2020 season, Oladipo was rested Tuesday on the second night of a back-to-back when the Pacers outlasted Golden State 104-95 in San Francisco.

LeVert won’t join his new team in Portland, leaving the club short-handed again as it prepares for the third stop on a five-game trip.

With Oladipo resting and T.J. Warren, Jeremy Lamb and T.J. McConnell also out of action on Tuesday, the Pacers used double-doubles from Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis as the foundation for a win that snapped a two-game losing streak.

Indiana had lost one night earlier at Sacramento, 127-122.

The Pacers hope to get McConnell back in Portland after the birth of his son earlier this week. Turner, meanwhile, hopes his impressive play of late — he has had double-doubles in two of his last three games — is an indication the club can expect more from him as well.

“The players on this team … are confident in my abilities,” he said after Tuesday’s win. “It is a new coaching staff, so I am still trying to get adjusted to the system. Nonetheless you have to be aggressive, and the past couple of games, I haven’t been aggressive enough, especially (Monday in Sacramento) shooting the ball four or five times a game is not the way that I want to play.

“Coach (Nate Bjorkgren) gave me the courage to be aggressive, and (against the Warriors) I just wanted to bounce back. I was able to do that and come away with the W.”

Portland, meanwhile, will have to endure the second night of a back-to-back on Thursday.

As was the case for the Pacers on Monday, the Trail Blazers were extended the full 48 minutes in Sacramento on Wednesday. But unlike Indiana two days earlier, Portland got rewarded for the hard work, pulling out a 132-126 victory for a fourth straight win.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum helped Portland tie a franchise record for 3-pointers by making six apiece. That accounted for more than half of the team’s total of 23.

Lillard went 42 minutes on an ankle that had him listed as just probable for the game, while Jusuf Nurkic played 30 as he continued to deal with a quad issue. Neither is a sure thing for the second night of the back-to-back.

The matchup with Indiana means another challenge for Trail Blazers defensive ace Robert Covington, who denied Toronto star Pascal Siakam on a last-second shot in a 112-111 win on Monday.

Next up: Pacers standout big man Sabonis.

“That’s the type of mentality that we need to have,” Lillard said, referring to how Covington embraces the toughest assignments. “We’ve got to be willing to take that challenge.”


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