The Indiana Pacers are locked in to the #5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs but aren’t exactly ‘en fuego’ as the regular season draws to a close. Along with ‘on the bubble’ Detroit the Pacers find themselves in the worst form of any playoff eligible team in either conference having lost 7 of their last 10 games and 13 of their last 21 games both SU and ATS. They could use a boost going into the postseason and they have a chance to get one here as they take on the mystifying Atlanta Hawks.
At first glance, the Pacers don’t look particularly interested in this game. Wesley Matthews is already listed as ‘Out’ due to ‘Rest’ with Myles Turner and Tyreke Evans both listed as ‘Questionable’. Victor Oladipo was lost for the season in late January and the Pacers’ performance since he went out isn’t encouraging. The Hawks have no ‘new injuries’ with the only entries on the report being ‘old news’ with Dewayne Dedmon and Omari Spellman both out for the season.
The mystifying thing about the Hawks is this–how can a team that is by all accounts a ‘bad team’ be so good at covering pointspreads in the second half of the season? The Hawks are 29-52 SU on the season with a losing record at home (17-23) and on the road (12-29). They have the fourth worst record in the Eastern Conference and the fifth worst record in the entire NBA. They’re not going anywhere but to the draft lottery yet they have gone 14-6 ATS in their last 20 games and 7-3 ATS in their last 10. Part of the reason for their pointspread success is obvious–they were simply undervalued relative to the betting line. The American sporting public had no interest in backing the pitiful Hawks which forced the bookmakers to shade the number involving Atlanta more and more. At some point, they become an overlay getting more points than their ‘true line value’ would justify.
Another factor has been the Atlanta offense–they quit playing defense months ago and in fact have the worst scoring defense of any team in the NBA by a wide margin. The Hawks allow 119.2 PPG. The #29 Washington Wizards allow a relatively stingy 116.9 PPG. Since the All Star Break, however, they’ve been scoring a ton of points. They were second in the NBA in team scoring for the month of March with 119.9 PPG and trailing the #1 LA Clippers by one tenth of a point. The Hawks have some nice young talent led by pointguard Trae Young and including Isaac Humphries and John Collins.
Ultimately, their defensive struggles will be the Hawks undoing in this game. The Pacers are still the #1 scoring defense in the league. They’ve had little trouble with the Hawks winning four straight including three meetings this year. Oddly enough, all three of the Pacers wins over the Hawks this season came by an eight point margin. The early line has Indiana installed as a -1.5 point road favorite and even if the price is higher closer to game time the Pacers have more to gain from a win here.