The Tournament Begins, and its Here with Pacers vs Hornets
Love it or hate it, the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament is here and the ninth-seeded Indiana Pacers (34-38) will host the tenth-seeded Charlotte Hornets (33-39). The Pacers enter this contest as a three-point betting favorite and at -130 on the money line. Charlotte is a +110 underdog.
The Hornets are arguably the worst team to make the play-in tournament. The team lost five straight and dropped from the eighth seed to the tenth. Indiana also struggled down the stretch and lost its last two games against Charlotte. Between these subpar squads, it’s a dog-or-pass situation.
Hornets: LaMelo Magic
The biggest key for the Charlotte Hornets’ success is recapturing the LaMelo Ball magic. Since his return, Ball hasn’t been the same player. His 15.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists are nice but his shooting has been horrible: 384/244/667.
Ball has been even worse in the last five games with just 14.4 points on 36.5% shooting. He’s a -46 during this span as the Hornets failed to close out games losing by single-digits in four of these.
Want to congratulate this year’s @hornets squad for securing a spot in the play-in tournament. Future’s bright in Charlotte! #CharlotteHornets #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/DTULTo7p2F
— Tyrone Muggsy Bogues (@MuggsyBogues) May 13, 2021
Charlotte, a diminutive team, lacks the interior scoring and defense necessary to fend off teams with solid big men. If the Hornets are to survive the play-ins, they will need the likes of G Terry Rozier, G Devonte’ Graham, and F Miles Bridges to catch fire. Otherwise, it will be another short postseason for the franchise.
Pacers: Trouble in Pacer-dise
News broke out weeks ago that the Indiana Pacers will likely fire coach Nate Bjorkgren thanks to a soured relationship with the players on top of a disappointing season. This will be the franchise’s first losing season since 2014-15 and only its second in a decade.
The Pacers started the season 8-4 but went just 26-34 after with plenty of ugly losses. C Domantas Sabonis continued to play like an All-Star with averages of 20.3 points, 12 rebounds, and 6.7 assists with a 56.4% effective field goal percent (eFG%).
Joining Sabonis are two other 20-point scorers in G Malcolm Brogdon (21.2) and Caris LeVert (20.7). The Pacers have one of the most prolific offenses (6th in points). But their defense also allows the sixth-most points while their rebounding leaves a lot to be desired. If this team advances, it’s because they tighten up on D.
Pick: Going Big
The Charlotte Hornets beat the Indiana Pacers in their own backyard the last time they met. Sabonis was a non-factor in the game scoring just eight points on 4-of-7 shooting. And when he and F/C Myles Turner went off the floor, the Hornets feasted on the Pacers’ nonexistent interior defense.
If Indiana will cash the NBA betting odds, Sabonis and Turner will have to assert themselves as true big men. The Hornets have consistently struggled against teams with productive bigs. But the key for them is to continue attacking the basket and getting Turner into foul trouble.
The Pacers give up the fifth-most free throws in the league and the most two-pointers. Charlotte needs to stay aggressive and attack the paint like they did in the previous game. Even without Hayward, the Hornets could walk away with this one.
Pick: Charlotte Hornets +3 (-110) or Charlotte Hornets +130
Bonus Pick: Going In
Charlotte has a penchant for having big scoring quarters as they did against the Pacers. Indiana allows the fifth-most and third-most points in the second and third quarter, respectively.
Indiana has been hit by 40-burgers in a single quarter by even non-playoff teams. Look for the Hornets to go off on Indiana in one of the quarters