The Indiana Pacers were one of our favorites for a while there, but now that they’re coming up dry, we’re leading off with the Charlotte Hornets in our latest 3-pack of value-conscious NBA picks.
Jason’s record as of Apr. 1: 64-63-5 ATS, 7-11 Totals, plus-1.15 units ML
That is one messed-up Eastern Conference playoff race. With seven or eight games left to go in the regular season, only five games separate the No. 6 Milwaukee Bucks from the No. 11 Indiana Pacers as we go to press. Even the No. 12 Detroit Pistons have a shot at the postseason. Not only will teams be scrambling to get in, they’ll also be tracking down that 6-seed, which means not having to face the No. 1 Atlanta Hawks or the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.
Someone’s playoff chances are going to take a big hit Friday night. Let’s go straight to this week’s 3-pack of value picks against the NBA odds, with two Eastern teams who are currently on the outside looking in.
Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers (7:00 p.m. ET)
What happened to the Pacers (32-43 SU, 38-34-3 ATS)? After a six-week run at 13-3 SU and ATS, they’ve lost nine of their last 11 at 3-8 ATS to fall 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. The return of Rodney Stuckey (15.8 PER, plus-0.1 BPM) hasn’t stopped the bleeding, either. Sadly, this appears to be a case of George Hill (21.9 PER, plus-5.4 BPM) coming back down to Earth a bit after leading Indiana on that hot streak.
Which is bad news for Friday’s matchup against the Hornets (32-42 SU, 36-36-2 ATS). They’re a half-game up on Indiana with a game in hand, and they’re carrying some value at 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS in their last four contests. Getting Kemba Walker (18.5 PER, plus-3.1 BPM) back up to speed and in the starting lineup has made a big difference. So has keeping Lance Stephenson (9.0 PER, minus-3.1 BPM) nailed to the bench. We like Charlotte +5 for our NBA pick in this one.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Hornets
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics (7:30 p.m. ET)
You have to be willing to jump on and off the bandwagon when the time is right, and it looks like it’s time to get back on the Bucks (37-38 SU, 42-32-1 ATS). They’re 3-2 SU and ATS in their last five games; with the playoffs now in the balance, head coach Jason Kidd has tightened his rotation, leaving newcomers Miles Plumlee (13.8 PER, minus-2.3 BPM) and Tyler Ennis (6.8 PER, minus-6.1 BPM) mostly out of the mix. That takes some of the sting out of the trade for Michael Carter-Williams (13.5 PER, minus-1.8 BPM).
The Celtics (34-41 SU, 43-31-1 ATS) are a half-game out of a playoff spot as we go to press, and they might be back on track after a pair of SU and ATS wins over Charlotte (–3 at home) and Indiana (+4 away). However, our focus for this game is on the UNDER, which is on a 3-0 run for the defensively-minded Bucks, and 4-2 in Boston’s last six.
Free NBA Pick: Take the UNDER
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Sacramento Kings (10:00 p.m. ET)
Lastly, we turn our faces to the West, where the Pelicans (40-34 SU, 42-32 ATS) have moved back to within 1.5 games of the No. 8 Oklahoma City Thunder with a game in hand. The Pellies are 3-0 SU and ATS in their last three games, and Ryan Anderson (16.6 PER, minus-0.4 BPM) is back from his knee injury.
This is a rematch from last week’s game at the Squishee King Center, where the Kings (26-48 SU, 29-43-2 ATS) lost 102-88 as 6.5-point underdogs. That was with a full Sacramento lineup and DeMarcus Cousins (25.5 PER, plus-4.8 BPM) providing 39 points and 20 rebounds. He’ll have to do better than that with Rudy Gay (19.5 PER, plus-2.2 BPM) expected to miss this game with a concussion. And that’s if Cousins doesn’t get another maintenance day.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Pelicans -6.5 at Bovada