Indiana Pacers (29-23) at Charlotte Hornets (21-29)
We dropped a tough one last night when we backed the Toronto Raptors on the road against a John Wall-less Washington Wizards team. The Raptors jumped out to an early lead but faded in the third quarter. The game was a tight one down the stretch, and the Raptors sent Kyle Lowry, an 87% free throw shooter to the line, to tie the game with three seconds left, and send it into overtime. Lowry shockingly missed the first free throw and with just three seconds left that was a wrap for Toronto.
It hurts to have one of your best players, and an elite free throw shooter, at the line miss one that was so important. It was no guarantee that we would have won and covered in overtime, but it hurts that we didn’t get the chance in such a good spot. Kudos must go out to Washington, they are now 3-0 since John Wall got hurt and have beat OKC and Toronto, two very good teams.
You just have to wonder how long this can last for Washington, as they have not at all replaced Wall’s production. It has lasted at least one game longer than I had predicted, maybe the Wizards will be alright after all? I doubt it though. Today we will break down a matchup between two teams headed in opposite directions as the surging Indiana Pacers will travel to Charlotte to face the Hornets tonight.
The Indiana Pacers will travel to Charlotte tonight to face a struggling Hornets teams. The Pacers just wrapped up a 10-5 month of January that has seen them rise from a team trying to sneak into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, to a team that is just half of a game back of a top-four seed. It has been a great turn around for Indiana that not many saw coming.
The Pacers have won seven out of their last ten games, the most wins in that stretch of games in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets had a decent January as well as they finished the month with a winning record, something they haven’t done all year long. They are however still well below .500 and are four games back of the eight seed in the East. The Hornets are -3-point home favorite. The game total over-under is set at 210.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the Spectrum Center.
The Pacers have played themselves into the conversation as a team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers can’t figure out how to get Isaiah Thomas and Lebron James to play together and just lost Kevin Love to a long-term injury. The Wizards lost their best player, John Wall to injury, and while they have played well without Wall in the short-term, that is bound to come to an end soon. Those teams struggling have opened the doors for Indiana to climb as high as the three seed in the East, which would be remarkable after completely re-hauling the roster in the offseason.
While the Pacers haven’t been a great road team this season, the Hornets haven’t been a great home team either at just 14-14. The Hornets are much better at home than on the road, where they are atrocious, but that doesn’t mean they are good at home.
These two teams just played last week in Indiana. Dwight Howard had a monster first half but faded in the second half, and the Pacers won 105-96. If you remember correctly, I backed the Pacers in that one, and I am backing them again in this one. First-time All-Star Victor Oladipo has just been too good over this last stretch of wins for Indiana, to not like them tonight. It was like getting named to his first All-Star team has really fired him up, as he has been scoring at a very high rate during this recent run of success.
Coupled with the play of Domantas Sabonis, who seems to get a double-double every night out, this team has things clicking at the moment. This Pacer’s team is young and is really starting to gel, and I expect big things from them down the stretch in the NBA final 30 or so games. If they keep playing like they are right now, I could even see them winning a playoff series if they can sneak into one of the top four seeds and get that series at home.
If I had to pick an outright winner for this game, I would lean towards the Pacers. They are the much better team and are as hot as any team in the East right now. But I don’t have to take that strong of a stance, as the book is willing to give me three points. I just don’t see too many situations where I would be confident backing Charlotte as a full possession favorite against just about anyone, at home or on the road, let alone against a streaking team like Indiana. Kemba Walker is fun to watch, and Dwight Howard has been solid, but this team just doesn’t play consistently well enough to be trusted as favorites.
The one possible wild card here is that the Pacers are going to be without head coach Nate McMillan tonight as he did not travel with the team for personal reasons. But this is a player’s league, Luke Walton proved that when he couldn’t lose with the Warriors last year, and now can’t win with the Lakers this year. I don’t see that being a major factor, and I am forced to stick with the hot hand and the better team tonight from Charlotte. Give me the Indiana Pacers as road underdogs getting 3-points.