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Eastern Conference Play-In, 8th Place Game – Winner moves on, loser goes home
8. Washington Wizards -148 (34-38)
9. Indiana Pacers +123 (34-38)
The first round of Play-In games have concluded and left standing are four teams looking to secure their spot into the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The two remaining teams from the Eastern Conference that will be squaring up on Thursday will be the Wizards and Pacers. The Pacers are coming off a definitive victory over the Hornets. Injury concerns prior to the game had a lot of people concerned for the Pacers, but they came out and showcased some of the best shooting this year. They were able to put up 144 points and secured a 25 point lead at halftime. Right out of the gate the Pacers began laying on the long distance threes and for whatever reason the Hornets were never able to recover from it. They continued to dish the ball underneath to Zeller early on, but the Hornets just couldn’t match the pace of the Pacers (pun intended) throughout the first three quarters and by the fourth it didn’t matter because the Pacers were too far ahead. Oshae Brissett led the Pacers in scoring with 23 and Domantas Sabonis led in rebounds with 21 and assists with 9. Brogdon was dealing with an injury prior to the game, but still managed to put up 16 points on 60% shooting, alongside 8 assists. The Pacers are a team that can shoot from long range and can also play as a unit. This creates confusion for teams because it makes you have to contest both aspects of their game at all times. I don’t believe the Pacers are a team that can win a 7-game series, but when it comes to one-and-done games I’d be concerned to go up against these stingy Pacers. Until they meet like the Wizards, of course. This is a team that is coming off a 118-110 loss to the Celtics. The Celtics were a banged up team going into their Play-In game against the Wizards earlier in the week, but still managed to get scoring from their remaining co-stars, specifically Jayson Tatum who put up 50 points. I think the biggest issues for the Wizards in that game was the inconsistency of Bradley Beal and the lack of offense from Russel Westbrook. Beal was forcing shots and attempted to put the team on his back, while Westbrook managed to only get rebounds throughout most of the game. I don’t foresee these two stars showcasing similar play this game against the Pacers. It seems more likely that the two of them will learn from their mistakes, incorporate one another and also their teammates into the game more, and in turn will come out victorious. Too many players from the Wizards put up less than 5 points after playing more than 15 minutes each as well. This forced the hands of both Beal and Westbrook and made them both force shots that they didn’t want to take late in the game, creating turnovers, and ultimately more of a lead for the Celtics. The good news for the Wizards is that they’re not playing the Celtics who, even though were a man down, still had Kemba Walker and Jayson Tatum. The Wizards should be able to easily match up against the size and skillset of the Pacers, they’ll just need to ensure that the Pacers don’t get some space and start laying on the threes early. The Pacers feed off momentum and it’ll be up to the Wizards to keep players like Doug McDermott from hitting those clutch shots from a distance. Alongside this, the turnovers need to stop from the Wizards. Securing the ball and playing smart will be key in this close matchup. These teams matched up head-to-head three times this year, with the Wizards taking the series 3 games to 0. This game on Thursday will be in Washington, which also favors them, so in a ‘winner take all’ game it’s the Wizards game to lose in my opinion. I’m taking the Wizards, but this should be a close one.
PICK: Washington Wizards (-148 ON DRAFTKINGS)
Western Conference Play-In , 8th Place Game– Winner moves on, loser goes home
8. Golden State Warriors -162 (39-33)
9. Memphis Grizzlies +135 (38-34)
The remaining Western Conference Play-In game will be against the Warriors and Grizzlies. The Warriors are coming off a tight game against the favored Lakers where they lost 100-103. LeBron James was able to hit a long distance three, with just under a minute to go in the game, and the defense held up to secure the victory for the Lakers. Stephen Curry played his heart out, playing 41 minutes and putting up 37 points on 52% shooting. Curry does what Curry does best by shooting 6-9 from long distance and Draymond Green played a solid team-first game throughout. Wiggins was able to put up 21 points and played very well on LeBron throughout most of the game, but his lack of a supporting cast limited the Warriors late in the game. Because of this, the Lakers were able to be more consistent in the second half of the game and never looked back from there. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 25 points on 41% shooting, alongside 12 rebounds. LeBron wasn’t able to score like he normally does, but he did still play a complete game. He was able to put up a triple-double (22-11-10) and that was the deciding factor and was ultimately the reason why the Warriors are having to play in this second Play-In game. The Warriors are Klay Thompson away from going into the playoffs and doing damage, but that’s just not what they have available this year. Regardless, the Warriors atleast have the man power to compete against the Grizzlies. As long as the Warriors can consistently challenge inside, then they should win handsomely in this one. I picture the Warriors shooting a ton from beyond the arc early, creating momentum, and then never looking back. A key note for this game is that the Grizzlies were able to secure a victory over the Warriors this past Sunday. More importantly, though, was Curry being out of that game with a bruised tailbone. Prior to that, the Grizzlies split games with the Warriors in the regular season, meaning the Grizzlies were able to secure 2 of 3 wins, taking the head-to-head series against the Warriors this year. Stakes have changed and the Warriors are more familiar with what they need to do and for that reason, I’m taking the Warriors in this one. It may appear as though it’s going to be close early on, but watch the Warriors take this and run with it by early on in the second half.
PICK: Golden State Warriors (-162 ON DRAFTKINGS)