- CHECK BACK FOR PREVIEWS & PREDICTIONS FOR REMAINING Eastern and Western Conference Play-In MATCHUPS
- LINES SHOWN ARE MOST FAVORABLE LINE FROM DRAFTKINGS & FANDUEL SPORTSBOOKS
Eastern Conference Play-In – 9th vs 10th Place
9. Indiana Pacers -143 (34-38)
10. Charlotte Hornets +120 (33-39)
The Play-In games are here, which means the playoffs are right around the corner. The first set of games today will take place in the Eastern Conference and will be between the 9th and 10th teams, alongside the 7th and 8th seeds. The first matchup of the day will be between the Hornets and Pacers. I’d have to say, this is about as even of a game as you can get. Both teams hold similar records and the squads are evenly matched in my opinion. One difference, that is extremely glaring, is the Hornets are coming off a major skid going into the ‘Play-In’ game today. They have lost their last 5 games, went 2-3 against the spread, and have lost 10 of their last 15 to end the season. The Pacers, on the other hand, have won 3 of their last 5, and even managed to defeat a Lakers team 122-115 during a time when the Lakers were needing a win to try and avoid playing in their own Play-In game. Both teams will be missing key players. The Hornets will be without Gordon Hayward, while the Pacers will be without LeVert, Lamb, and Turner. Not only are we talking winners, but we’re talking teams that will be able to take the cover as well. With that being said, the Pacers have been cover kings lately, managing to go 6-0-1 ATS across the past seven games to end the season. The Pacers have made the playoffs the last 5 years, while the Hornets haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016 and, prior to that, had only made the playoffs four times in total throughout their time in the NBA. If we’re talking straight up team stats, the Hornets are averaging 109.5 points on 45.5% shooting, while giving up 111.4 points on 46.8% shooting. Terry Rozier was the star for Charlotte while LaMelo was out with an injury this season, but LaMelo has returned and with that he’ll bring along his averages of 15.7 points and 5.9 rebounds, alongside Rozier’s 20.4 points and 4.2 assists. On the contrary, the Pacers are averaging 115.3 points on 47.4% shooting, while allowing 115.3 points a game on 46.8% shooting. Brogden is averaging 21.2 points and 5.3 assists, while Caris LeVert is averaging 20.7 points and 4.9 assists. Rozier and LaMelo will both have a game, but I honestly think the slightly better shooting from the Pacers will put them ahead in this close one. Take Indiana by a few buckets.
PICK: Indiana Pacers (-143 ON DRAFTKINGS)
Eastern Conference Play-In – 7th vs 8th Place
7. Boston Celtics -130 (36-36)
8. Washington Wizards +108 (34-38)
The second Play-In game of the day will be against the Celtics and Wizards. This is an interesting game because, as of late, the Wizards are looking like one of the hottest teams in the NBA, even though they hold a record 4 games under .500. If you’ve followed them this season, you’d know a lot of their success began in April when they were able to cement 8 wins in a row. Since then, they have been 7-5, with their losses coming to some hot playoff teams as of late. The Wizards finished off the season with a 115-110 win over the Hornets, who they could end up facing in the second Play-In game, pending they lose this game. But first, they’ll need to go up against the underperforming Celtics. The Celtics are a team in the East that you’d of expected to be in the top 5 coming out of the East, but somehow managed to find themselves playing in the Play-In Tournament. They hold an even record, but for a team like the Celtics that just doesn’t cut it. They are fresh off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance and had expected to be contending for a higher seed by this point. The reasoning for this was lack of consistency, mainly near the beginning of the season. Because of their poor play this year, they are needing to win against the Wizards or they’ll find themselves having to play another game against the winner of the Pacers and Hornets. If we’re talking performance, which I believe is extremely important, then one team outshines the other as of late. The Wizards are 10-5, while the Celtics are 5-10 in the last 15 games of the regular season. Both teams knew what they needed to do to avoid this position that they’re in, so the performance of these teams in their final games could indicate the winner of this matchup. Compared to how things looked weeks ago, I’d say this is a pretty good outcome for both teams. Either way, I tend to showcase interest in the teams that put the effort in late and secure a spot because of it. That team is clearly the Wizards, who have showcased that their big move in the offseason to acquire Russel Westbrook was a good one. Paired with Bradley Beal, this duo has been able to give hope to Washington going into this Play-In game. The Wizards focus a lot of their success off these two guys, while the Celtics spread the ball around more. One guy that the Celtics will be without will be Jaylen Brown, who is also their star player averaging 24.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. This means that other players will need to step up like Jayson Tatum for example, but in order for that to happen he’ll need help from guys like Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, and Evan Fournier. One thing that could play in the Celtics favor, though, is Bradley Beal’s injury. Late in the season it appeared as though Beal had agitated his injury again, but he has since came out and said, “There’s no setback. I didn’t injure it any worse than it already was, so that’s positive.” This will mean that Beal won’t be 100%, but with the help from his team, and stars like Westbrook, I can’t see the Celtics beating them without Jaylen Brown. On top of that, I think it’s time we see Russel Westbrook in some playoff games that actually mean something. I think this Wizards team will have their hands full if they win, because they’ll then play the #1 seeded 76ers, but maybe they’ll surprise everyone and become the Cinderella story of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.
PICK: Washington Wizards (+108 ON DRAFTKINGS)