INDIANA PACERS (32-30)
at CHARLOTTE HORNETS (27-35)
Tip-off: Monday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Charlotte -4, Total: 206
The Pacers face the Hornets in Charlotte on Monday.
With recent wins over the Rockets and Hawks—and a mere one-point loss to a top-tier San Antonio team—the Pacers have impressed in post All-Star break play and look primed to give someone a first-round challenge in the Eastern Conference playoffs. After a 97-96 win over Atlanta on Sunday (IND +3) in which SG Glenn Robinson III hit a corner three to win the game, Indiana is 32-30 (29-32-1 ATS). They are sixth in the East, two games back of the fifth-place Hawks and one game ahead of the Bulls. They had three days off before the Atlanta game, so they’ll be playing the second end of a back-to-back on Monday in Charlotte against the Hornets. After winning 48 games last year and looking like a contender early this season, Charlotte has faltered and sits at 11th in the East at 27-35 (26-33-3 ATS). They’re four games out of a playoff spot after going 3-4 on a seven-game road trip, which they ended on Saturday with a 112-102 win at Denver (CHA +5.5). Since 1996, favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points coming off an Under against the total (CHA) are 76-39 ATS against opponents coming off six or more consecutive Unders. Over the last five seasons, games involving a team coming off an upset win as an underdog (IND) and a team coming off a road win of at least 10 points are 38-11 Under against totals between 200 and 209.5. Charlotte centers Miles Plumlee and Frank Kaminsky are out indefinitely for the Hornets, while PF Lavoy Allen is questionable for the Pacers.
It was a dramatic trade deadline in Indiana, although ultimately the team decided to hold onto star SF Paul George (21.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG). He’s under contract through next year, and rumor has it that, after that expires, he wants to become a Los Angeles Laker. Many pundits have expressed that he no longer looks like the franchise cornerstone that he was when leading the Pacers against LeBron-led Miami teams in the Eastern Conference Finals. He looked like his old self against Atlanta, though, making 12 of 19 shots en route to 34 points. GM Larry Bird has been trying to build a strong team around George, and PG Jeff Teague (15.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 8.0 APG, 1.4 SPG) and PF Thaddeus Young (11.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG) were big-name offseason acquisitions. Teague is sixth in the league in assists per game. Young has been playing through left wrist pain, and, after missing eight games, is only averaging 5.6 PPG in the five he has played since returning. If George indeed leaves town, the team will look to build around second-year C Myles Turner (15.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 BPG). He has developed as well as the Pacers could have hoped to this point, and the fact that he’s third in the league in blocks per game speaks to his abilities on both ends of the floor. SG Monta Ellis (8.4 PPG, 3.4 APG) and SF C.J. Miles (10.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG) play around 25 minutes per game on the wing.
There has been one obvious bright spot in Charlotte this season, and that would be the All-Star level play of PG Kemba Walker (22.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.2 SPG). He hasn’t slowed down any as of late, scoring 26 points in four straight games. (He has shot 19 of 39 from three-point range in that span.) He has now made at least two three-pointers in six straight games. Another bright spot recently was the play of Kaminsky (11.5 PPG, 4.7 RPG), who had been rolling before suffering a shoulder injury that should keep him out no more than two weeks. Over his last nine games played, he’s averaging 18.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG and 1.0 SPG. He had arguably the best game of his career last Tuesday, putting up 24 points and 12 rebounds. In his absence, the team will rely more heavily on PF Marvin Williams (11.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and C Cody Zeller (10.6 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG). Part of Kaminsky’s emergence came as a result of Zeller missing games with an injury, and now Zeller ought to see heavy action in the post. After a breakout season last year, Williams is producing less in almost every category. SF Nic Batum (15.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.0 SPG) has also regressed, a bad sign for an eight-year veteran who just signed a big, long contract in the offseason. SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (8.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG), SG Marco Belinelli (10.5 PPG) and SG Jeremy Lamb (9.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG) play key minutes on the perimeter.