The playoffs are finally here! Yes, we must start the festivities with a play-in tournament featuring the worst teams each conference has to offer, but each and every one of these contests have a certain level of intrigue.
Can the Boston Celtics rebound after an underwhelming season to make their way into the playoffs? Will Washington maintain this white-hot stretch of basketball that brought them the eighth seed? Charlotte was an exciting young team in the first half but fell on hard times that coincided with injury in the second half. LaMelo Ball will get his opportunity on national television to show the world what the Hornets can be when they play their best basketball. The Pacers are also playing! (Sorry Wes Reynolds, your Pacers are kind of boring)
I am beyond excited and I know you are too, so let’s get started with our preview of the first round of Eastern Conference Play-In games.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
Charlotte Hornets at Indiana Pacers (-3.5, 229)
The honor of ‘Most Boring Play-In Game’ goes to this one, but playoff basketball is playoff basketball. This game has the potential to be fun, but the injury report will be key tonight. Domantas Sabonis is considered questionable to play for Indiana with a quad injury, and Aaron Holiday could miss the game due to an issue with his big toe. Malcolm Brogdon is already considered to be a game-time decision for the Pacers, so the health of both Sabonis and Holiday is essential if this team wants to advance to the second round of the play-in tournament.
Those three being available is essential for this version of Indiana, which has been playing lackluster defense since losing Myles Turner to injury. In those 22 games, the Pacers are 23rd in non-garbage time defensive efficiency, allowing 115.3 points per 100 possessions. They have been killed in transition, allowing 1.305 points per play and opponents are adding 3.2 points per 100 possession to their offensive rating through transition opportunities against Indiana. The Pacers have just been winning shootouts lately, which is illustrated by the 15-7 run to the over in the contests without Turner. Thus, having your best offensive weapons like Sabonis, Brogdon and Holiday available is massive, to say the least. Especially when you consider Charlotte’s ability to exploit some of the weaknesses of Indiana, namely through transition. The Hornets rank sixth in frequency of possessions beginning with a transition play, and 14th in offensive efficiency (125.9) in transition. That could be a bad sign for the Pacers, but the Hornets’ offense has not exactly been firing on all cylinders lately.