The Pacers have everything to play for in their regular-season home finale on Tuesday night, while the Wizards have no reason to care. Thus Indiana is a 9.5-point favorite on NBA odds.
Pacers Control Their Fate
Indiana and Chicago are Central Division rivals and don't exactly like each other, but the Pacers were rooting heavily for the Bulls on Monday night against Brooklyn. Chicago's 113-86 destruction of the Nets knocked them out of the No. 8 spot in the East and moved the Pacers (37-43) in. Now it's simple for Indiana: win this game and then Wednesday night at Memphis (that won't be easy if the Grizzlies play all their key guys) and the Pacers are in. One loss allows Brooklyn to control its fate and the Nets would win the tiebreaker. They probably will win their home finale Wednesday against Orlando. The Pacers could move up to the seventh seed if they win out and Boston loses its final two games (hosting Toronto on Tuesday, at Milwaukee on Wednesday). Frankly, being the No. 8 is probably better because you get to face Atlanta instead of Eastern Conference favorite Cleveland and LeBron James in the first round. I believe the Pacers could beat the Hawks but not the Cavs. Indiana beat Atlanta in seven games in last year's first round.
The Pacers enter this on a five-game winning streak, the last four coming with the return of former All-Star forward Paul George off his badly broken leg suffered this summer with Team USA. The Indiana offense has been totally different with George, despite his very limited minutes. The Pacers have scored at least 102 points in each of the past four games and had 116 in a 12-point win over Oklahoma City on Sunday. In 14.5 minutes per game, George is hitting only 38.2 percent from the field and averaging 10.3 points. But just the fact he's out there has motivated his teammates. George will continue to play very limited minutes. C.J. Miles has scored in double figures in all six games in April and is averaging 18 points per game and shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range in that stretch. He tied a season high with 30 points vs. the Thunder.
Indiana is 42-35-3 against the NBA betting odds spread this season and 44-35-1 'over/under.'
Wizards Could Go Through Motions
I'll be quite surprised if Washington plays all its starters big minutes on Tuesday. Chicago's win Monday also affected the Wizards as it officially locked them into the No. 5 seed. So they will open the 2015 NBA playoffs either at Chicago or Toronto this weekend. For what it's worth, Wizards star guard John Wall says he wants to beat the Pacers and keep them out of the playoffs after Indiana beat the Wizards in last season's conference semifinals.
"We got a rivalry with them," said Wall. "We feel like we owe them from last year."
That's fine and all, but Coach Randy Wittman will decide whether Wall plays not Wall. He's also dealing with a minor ankle injury. The team's official game notes does list every normal Wizard as starting. The Wizards (46-34) have won five of six and come off a 108-99 win over Atlanta in their regular-season home finale on Sunday. Wall had 24 points and nine assists as the Hawks rested all their key guys. That was Washington's 46th win of the season, the team's most since 1978-79.
Washington is 31-46-3 against the NBA betting spread and 36-42-2 'over/under.'
Washington leads 2-1 and all three have been close. The one game in Indianapolis was Nov. 8 and the Wizards won 97-90 to end a 12-game regular-season losing streak there. That was back when the Pacers were missing several key players like Miles, Rodney Stuckey, David West and of course George. The most recent meeting was March 25 in Washington and the Pacers won 103-101 to end what had been a six-game losing streak this season. George Hill hit the game-winning layup with 2.7 seconds left. He finished with 29 points. Wall had a season-high 34 points and had tied the game on a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left. Stuckey missed that game and Washington lost starting guard Bradley Beal to a sprained right ankle late in the first quarter.
NBA Free Picks: I just don't see how the Wizards will match the Pacers' intensity. This line opened at -5 but took that jump once that Bulls-Nets result was finished. Go Indiana and the 'over' for this NBA pick. The Wizards have failed to cover their past eight playing on one day of rest. The Pacers have covered four straight at home. The 'over' is 6-1 in the Pacers' past seven at home.