Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 19 inclusive:
How about those Indiana Pacers? They’re still in first place in the Eastern Conference, but holy doodle, if you’ve been betting on Indiana (50-18 SU, 34-33-1 ATS) the past couple of months, you have our deepest condolences. After Wednesday’s 92-86 loss to the New York Knicks (+1.5 at home), the Pacers are 7-5 SU and 1-11 ATS in their past dozen games, and 5-20-1 ATS since Jan. 22. Not good.
Presumably the NBA odds market will correct – and overcorrect – at some point. In the meantime, the Pacers are preparing for Friday’s matchup with the Chicago Bulls (38-30 SU, 34-34 ATS), who are on a three-game ATS mini-slump of their own. The basketball odds have Indiana as a 5-point home chalk this time.
Win Is to Lose
The Pacers are still winning the majority of their games, which keeps the dumber portion of the marketplace from seeing how bad things have gotten. But those wins have been against the worst teams in the NBA. Over the past month, Indiana has beaten the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks home and away, to the tune of 0-6 ATS. Without those cupcakes on the schedule, the Pacers might not still be three games up on the Miami Heat for the No. 1 seed.
You have to go back to Feb. 7 to find the last time Indiana beat a team with a winning record – that was a 118-113 overtime victory over the Portland Trail Blazers (+6 away). Since then? 0-4 SU and ATS. Talk about strength of schedule. Yes, let’s do that: Here’s how the Pacers stack up in Simple Rating System (as per Basketball Reference) alongside their division-leading counterparts as we go to press:
San Antonio Spurs 7.56
Los Angeles Clippers 7.42
Oklahoma City Thunder 6.81
Indiana Pacers 5.31
Miami Heat 4.63
Toronto Raptors 2.91
The Pacers still have the best SRS in the East, but you can see how they pale in comparison to the Western elite once you account for point differential and strength of schedule. Your closest comparisons are the Houston Rockets (5.28 SRS) and the Golden State Warriors (5.12 SRS). Indiana has the profile of a middle-of-the-pack playoff seed in the West, fighting for home-court advantage in the first round.
Remember that brief moment of hope when Andrew Bynum made his Pacers debut? Well… it was nice while it lasted. Bynum (15.3 PER) developed fluid in his surgically-repaired right knee after just two games, and according to head coach Frank Vogel, he’ll be out “a while.” If “a while” turns out to be the rest of the season, there goes Indiana’s X-Factor against Miami in the playoffs.
As if Indiana’s bench situation weren’t bad enough, C.J. Watson (12.5 PER) has missed seven of the past eight games, first with a sprained elbow, then with a bad hammy. This has left Evan Turner (10.9 PER) with even more minutes to do his thing, and his thing hasn’t been working since he came over from Philadelphia – except during that brief interlude with Bynum.
And the most marvelous thing about all this? Vogel still won’t give Chris Copeland (16.1 PER) more than the occasional cup of coffee off the bench. Copeland did get seven minutes against his former Knicks teammates, and he was the only plus reserve for the Pacers at a team-leading plus-9. Bless this mess. Watson’s status for Friday’s game (7:00 p.m. ET) remains uncertain as we go to press, so keep your eyes peeled, but I can’t see myself recommending Indiana even if he plays. Not at this juncture.
NBA Pick: Take the Bulls +5.5 at BetCRIS
Also read our Friday Picks of the Day for more free plays.