Pacers’ Offensive Struggles
I’ll start this by saying that the Wizards are a much better defensive team than anyone including myself thought before the playoffs started. They have taken a big leap forward in that department, but somewhat like Chicago before them, the Pacers are not a great offensive team. Indiana does not have great sets to go to like the Wizards, who incorporate several different sets on offense, and have diverse cache of weapons on offense as well. This has led to the Pacers playing from behind more and having to stretch their defense further away from the basket. If that continues, Washington will win this series.
The Wizards are deep, they have experience, and it showed in Game 1. Trevor Ariza had a standout Game performance, and his outside shooting, along with the outstanding play from second year guard, Bradley Beal really stretched the Pacers’ defense. In general, if Ariza and Beal are winning their matchups, it’s going to be a short series.
I picked the Wizards to win this series and while I do think the Pacers will play better in Game 2, Washington is still undervalued at +4 ½. With Roy Hibbert playing like he got his power stolen by the aliens in Space Jam, Indiana cannot combat the big guys for Washington. The Wizards have a lot of depth at that 4 and 5 positions, and it’s wearing down even Indiana’s front line.
John Wall didn’t even have a great night shooting the ball, but he had nine assists and only one turnover. The Wizards assisted on 23 of their 35 made baskets, compared to Indiana’s 16/33. Washington looks like they are presenting another bad matchup for a slower and more offensively challenged team, and with their speed and surprising defensive effort, I see them covering and/or winning outright once again in Indiana.
The Pacers will likely come out with a bit more aggressiveness early in this game, but sometimes their aggression can impact them negatively. Sometimes Lance Stephenson and Paul George like to play hero-ball, when they should be taking some lessons from the Wizards on offense.
The Sharp Pick
Going back towards the end of the regular season, the Pacers are now only 4-12 ATS at home in their last 16 games there. Fans at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse were booing the home team at the end of Game 1, and it is not the first time fans in Indiana have gone to that extreme in these playoffs. The Pacers are now 7-14 ATS in their last 21 games, and dating back to January 22nd, the Pacers are 14-36 ATS (28%).
They have picked things up more recently ATS, however even if we use just their last 12 games, Indiana is still only 7-5 ATS. However seven of those games were against the Hawks. The Wizards are far better than Atlanta, and I’m not sure if the sportsbooks are in denial, or it’s the public. Washington might just be that 2nd best team in the East, and even though there is a big drop off from 1st to 2nd, the gap is closing with every playoff win the Wizards acquire. I think they could do exactly what they did to the Bulls to Indiana, and win two games on the road.
My Pick: Wizards +4 ½