Indiana Pacers -6.5 @ New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets captured an impressive (and rare) win last night, knocking off the defending champion Mavericks last night at home. As impressive and encouraging as the win is for the few remaining NOLA fans, it is probably more an indictment of some of the problems in Dallas, who extended their losing streak on both sides of the break to a total of four and counting.
Indiana, on the other hand, has been scorching of late, winners of six in a row (before that they suffered a season-long five game losing streak). Most pundits are now calling the Pacers the third best team in the East. Which makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief if I’m a Heat or Bulls fan; there’s a pretty enormous drop-off from those two powers to the plucky Pacers.
Much of Indiana’s solid play stems from the tremendous balance of their scoring and the depth of their bench. They have seven players averaging over 9ppg, and get contributions from nine or ten players nightly. Danny Granger has been their leading scorer, but far from their most efficient player. The emergence of Roy Hibbert as the second best center in the East and of Paul George as a legitimate NBA starter have really elevated their team’s play.
On paper, the Pacers should win tonight’s game. New Orleans has a dreadful record, and they played last night while Indy has been off since Tuesday. However, New Orleans is one of those teams that has a knack for losing, but losing competitively. They have covered the line in eight of their last nine ball games. Meanwhile, Indy is just 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
These teams met earlier this season in Indianapolis and the Pacers needed overtime to get the win on their own floor. With Chris Kaman healthy, they have a viable and very similar matchup inside for Roy Hibbert. Quietly, Jarrett Jack has been fantastic at the point, and is an excellent, strong defensive guard – exactly the type of matchup that can be frustrating for the slighter Darren Collison.
I think Indy can squeak out a win tonight, but there is no way I am willing to lay six to back it. The underdog is 9-3 ATS in these team’s last 12 meetings. I think tonight extends it to 10-3. I like a steadily improving New Orleans team that has won five of their last nine games straight-up getting a half dozen at home.
Free Pick: New Orleans Hornets +6.5