The final Wednesday of March is a quiet one in the NBA, with just five games being played on the night. The league is rapidly approaching the postseason, meaning many things have already been decided. 10 teams have already been eliminated, 10 more have already clinched a playoff berth. Only fights for playoff seeding remain, with both Conferences featuring many tightly-bunched teams in the standings.
Game 1: Indiana Pacers (45-29) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (43-31)
If you swapped all the players on OKC and Indiana, you probably couldn’t tell the difference between them. Both teams started the season out fairly strong, but have faltered recently and have only hurt their standings heading towards the playoffs. These two teams met just two weeks ago, as Indiana walked off the court with a 108-106 victory. I’m not sure either team will actually earn a win tonight, but at least one of them will certainly deserve a loss more.
Ah yes, the Pacers again. Indiana was slapped with (what is probably) the hardest schedule in the final month of the season. Between March 10th and April 10th, the Pacers will have played 14 (15 if you count Orlando) games against playoff teams, out of a total of 16 games played during that stretch. That’s absolutely brutal, and their win/loss record as of late certainly reflects that. Fortunately for the Pacers, they’ve locked up a spot in the playoffs and only need wins if they’re concerned with seeding.
- Record of just 17-20 in games played on the road this season.
- Managed to throttle Denver last game, but lost 4 games in a row prior to that. Bojan Bodganovic scored 35 points on phenomenal 13-16 shooting from the field, a feat he likely won’t repeat.
- Point guard Darren Collison is expected to play tonight after missing the last 3 games with a quad injury. He was huge in the Pacers win over OKC, scoring 17 points, dishing 7 assists, and snatching 4 steals on the game.
- Just 15-14 in games against the Western Conference.
- The Pacers did cover the point spread last game, but didn’t cover the 3 games prior and have covered only 4 of their last 10 games overall.
If you’re looking for the biggest disappointment of the second half of the season, look no further than the boys in blue. PG13 was having an MVP calibre season until he was derailed by a shoulder injury. His efficiency has been as MIA as the Thunder’s consistency in the past few months. OKC was comfortably sitting in 3rd place just weeks ago, but now finds themselves in 7th place, just a ½ game ahead of San Antonio (who has played much better than OKC lately).
- Record of 23-12 at home this season.
- Have lost 5 of their last 6 games, including an embarrassing loss to lowly Memphis.
- Committed 28 fouls against Indiana last time they played, resulting in 32 free throws for the Pacers, a number they must cut down if they want to win.
- 18-9 against the Eastern Conference, being actually quite solid for them.
- Failed to cover the point spread last game, and have only covered once in the last 6 games, good for 4 of their last 10 games overall.
Pick: Indiana Pacers +6.0
I don’t think either team will have an exceptional performance tonight. Both teams are playing poorly and their playoff seeding is suffering because of it. OKC is now in grave danger of facing Golden State in the first round, and having games against any team with a decent record like the Pacers poses a major threat for the Thunder. Indy may come in as underdogs, but I think the Thunder really stink it up tonight, and I don’t expect them to cover the point spread. Expect Indiana to win tonight.