The Charlotte Hornets (33-39) and Indiana Pacers (34-38) both finished under .500 this season, but here they are still alive for the postseason in the first play-in tournament game between the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds. The Hornets come in on a five-game losing streak, but they won the last two meetings with the Pacers, including a 114-97 outcome in Indiana back in April.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers
Tuesday, May 18, 2021 – 06:30 PM EDT at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
The Pacers are a 3-point favorite at many top sportsbooks for NBA. The lineups could look different for these teams compared to the last meeting and what they have recently put on the court. Indiana hopes to get guard Malcolm Brogdon back after he missed the last 10 games. The Hornets still will not have Gordon Hayward, but LaMelo Ball recently returned after a 21-game absence.
Reviewing the Season Series
These teams first met in back-to-back games in Charlotte in late January. The Pacers pulled out the first game 116-106, but played catch up for most of the rematch, only to blow the lead in the final 70 seconds as the Hornets closed out a 108-105 victory.
Then in Indiana on April 2, the Hornets led for nearly 40 minutes in a 114-97 victory. Miles Bridges led the way for Charlotte with 23 points off the bench while Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis tied a season-low with eight points on only 4-of-7 shooting.
The Pacers did not shoot the three ball well in either loss to Charlotte, posting 3P% of 31.4% in January and 30.3% in April. The Pacers are 4-18 this season when they shoot worse than 32% from three. Indiana hit 40% from three in the win over Charlotte, and the Hornets are 4-20 this season when the opponent makes at least 40% from three.
Indiana has referenced rebounding as a key area against the bigger-sized Hornets team. While Charlotte was a mediocre rebounding team in the regular season, the Pacers finished 29th in rebound percentage (47.6%), only winning the rebounding battle 22 times in 72 games. Charlotte won it 30 times. The Pacers won the rebound battle twice in three meetings with the Hornets.
The Hornets rarely have great shooting nights. Charlotte had 10 games this season, including one against Indiana, where it shot 50% or better from the field, which ranks as the third lowest total in the league. The Pacers had 23 such games, tied for the ninth most.
Neither team is coming in hot to this game, but the Pacers have certainly had a better go of things in the month of May. Indiana (5-5) ranks No. 9 in Net Rating (plus-4.9) in May while the Hornets (3-7) are No. 23 (minus-5.2). That looks like a big difference, but the Pacers’ stats are boosted by a 152-95 drubbing of the Thunder on May 1. If we just used the last nine games instead of 10, the rankings in Net Rating would be Pacers No. 20 and Hornets No. 24.
Still, over the last five games, all losses, the Hornets have been putrid with a ranking of 25th in Offensive Rating. Terry Rozier recently had a 43-point game against the Pelicans, but he has been struggling, shooting 38.7% in his last 12 games. He has not scored more than 20 points in any game against the Pacers this year, shooting 26.1% from the field in his last meeting.
While LaMelo Ball has been back for the last 10 games, the Hornets rookie has only shot 38.4% from the field, 24.4% from three, and is a minus-4.4 per game in plus-minus in that time.
This is why the potential return of Brogdon (hamstring), who is a game-time decision, could be big for Indiana. In the 11 games before his injury, Brogdon averaged 22.9 points per game. Brogdon scored 25 points for Indiana in its only win against Charlotte while he was inactive for the 17-point loss in April.
Indiana has been a better offense and a better defense than Charlotte this season. The Pacers have scored at least 125 points six times in May alone. The Hornets have not hit that mark in 12 straight games, and they have not scored more than 112 points during this five-game losing streak. The Hornets had 18 games this season with at least 115 points – only the Magic (16), Cavaliers (13), and Thunder (13) had fewer games.
These have not been reliable teams to bet on this season, but the Hornets (36-35-1 ATS) have a better spread record than the Pacers (32-39-1 ATS). On the plus side, the last 15 times Indiana won a game, it won it by more than three points. The Pacers are also one of the worst home favorites in the league with a 6-14 ATS record. Then again, the Hornets (11-17 ATS) are a bad road underdog as well, so these teams are usually the wrong choice for your betting odds.
Indiana is trying to avoid a 10th-straight loss in games played after the regular season. Normally we call those playoff games, but this is something different this year. Still, I am going to trust the Pacers, hopefully with Brogdon back, as the better team to pull out the win in getting this NBA tournament started.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.