INDIANAPOLIS — For the Portland Trail Blazers’ Pat Connaughton and rookie Caleb Swanigan, the Friday night game against the Indiana Pacers in Bankers Life Fieldhouse represents a Hoosier State homecoming.
Connaughton, who scored 24 points Wednesday night in Portland’s near record-setting 124-76, regular-season-opening victory at Phoenix, played college basketball at Notre Dame.
Swanigan, the 26th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in his NBA debut. He played at Purdue and was the 2017 Big Ten Player of the Year.
An Indiana University product led the Pacers to a season-opening win Wednesday. Victor Oladipo had a team-best 22 points in Indiana’s 140-131 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
Led by guard Damian Lillard’s 27 points, Portland’s 48-point victory fell two points short of the franchise’s all-time-record margin of victory. The game did set an Opening Night record for NBA margin of victory, topping the Denver Nuggets’ 46-point victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in 1987.
And the Trail Blazers did it without All-Star guard CJ McCollum, who was suspended for one game for leaving the bench during a brief fight involving Swanigan in the final preseason game.
“That was a great way to start the season,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Obvious statement is that we played very well. Pat played with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence at Phoenix. Everybody was wondering where the 3-pointers are going to come from. Pat is one of them.”
Connaughton is playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he returns to the state where he played college ball.
“For me, I do it because people aren’t sure I’m supposed to be here,” said Connaughton, who made 9 of 14 field-goal attempts, including 4 of 7 from 3-point range. “They think I’m supposed to be on a mound, pitching for the Yankees in the ALCS. For me, it’s about showing that I belong and making sure I help this team win.”
Swanigan is thrilled to be returning to the venue where he led his Homestead High School team — from a Fort Wayne, Ind., suburb — to the 2015 Class 4A state championship.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Swanigan said of facing the Pacers in only his second regular-season game as a professional.
Oladipo is excited about the revamped Pacers team. He came to Indiana as part of the Paul George trade.
“I am going to try my hardest to play like I did Wednesday night,” Oladipo said. “I just want to go out and play the game and do a little bit of everything. Against Brooklyn, I was just trying to set the tone on both ends. I have to do that night in and night out.”
Pacers coach Nate McMillan is pleased to have the former Hoosiers star.
“We have speed that can get the ball down the floor and create open opportunities by Victor pushing,” McMillan said. “Last year, the top five teams in the league averaged 110 points or more. My goal is for this team to average at least 110.”
Source: Fox Sports