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Pacers-Trail Blazers Preview

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The defensive-minded Indiana Pacers are struggling to slow opponents away from home, which isn’t a good sign ahead of visiting one of the NBA’s toughest environments.

After dropping the first two on a four-game trip, the Pacers will look to end their losing streak in Portland on Thursday night, while red-hot LaMarcus Aldridge will try to lead the Trail Blazers to their 12th win in 13 games.

Indiana, one of the NBA’s top defensive clubs in recent years, ranks in the top 10 again with 96.4 points allowed per game.

The Pacers (7-11), however, haven’t been able to tighten things up over their last four road games, giving up an average of 107.8 points on 51.9 percent shooting — including a 40.0 percent clip from 3-point range.

They opened the difficult swing that ends Friday in Sacramento with a 109-97 loss at Cleveland before dropping their third straight away from home Tuesday, allowing a season-high point total and 12-of-25 shooting from beyond the arc in a 116-99 loss at Phoenix.

“I think we had a couple of stints where we didn’t invest the energy,” said guard C.J. Miles after scoring a season-high 17.

The Pacers allowed 38 fast-break points, while Phoenix scored 24 off their season high-tying 19 turnovers. The Suns’ starters also outscored their Indiana counterparts by an eye-opening 86-42.

“That’s something we’ve got to look at,” said coach Frank Vogel, whose starters are averaging just 55.9 points.

The Northwest Division-leading Blazers (14-4), who are 40-12 at home since the start of last season, have one of the NBA’s highest scoring lineups at 77.3 points per game. Portland has outscored opponents 41-26 in points off turnovers in back-to-back wins since its nine-game winning streak ended.

Aldridge is likely to give Indiana some trouble after he scored a season-high 39 before getting his only assist when he found Robin Lopez for the winning basket with 1.3 seconds left in Tuesday’s 105-103 victory at Denver.

“He carried us, not only with his jump shot, but then late going to the post, getting to the free throw line,” coach Terry Stotts told the team’s official website. “He was good all night.”

Aldridge has totaled 65 points and 26 rebounds while shooting 27 of 47 (57.4 percent) in his last two games. The All-Star forward also has scored 26.7 per game on 55.4 percent shooting in his last three at home versus Indiana.

Damian Lillard, who had 17 points Tuesday, is averaging 26.8 over his last four games against the Pacers. He finished with 38 to go along with 11 assists in a 118-113 road loss in the most recent meeting Feb. 7.

Wesley Matthews has totaled 49 while shooting 13 of 22 from 3-point range in his last two home games for the Blazers, who have scored 106.3 per game during their 11-1 stretch.

Indiana’s George Hill had a career-high 37 points in the February meeting, but he’s expected to be out until mid-December with an injured left quadriceps. The Pacers, though, are getting healthier as Miles (calf), Roy Hibbert (ankle), David West (ankle) and C.J. Watson (foot) have all returned within the past five games.

Indiana has shown some improvement by averaging 101.0 points in the last five after scoring 90.9 per game in its previous 13.

The Pacers look to end a five-game road slide in the series with their first victory in Portland since November 2007.

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