Pacers vs. Wizards NBA Play-In Expert Analysis and Pick


Kelan Martin #21 of the Indiana Pacers on May 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana.    Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP
Kelan Martin #21 of the Indiana Pacers on May 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP


The Washington Wizards might be too gimpy to beat the Indiana Pacers and the NBA odds for Thursday’s play-in game.


Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards

Thursday, May  20, 2021 – 8:00 PM ET at Capital One Arena


It’s not a crime to be critical of Russell Westbrook. That’s our job when we make our NBA picks, and to do our job right, we have to recognize Westbrook’s flaws as well as his more positive attributes. If other people want to get salty about that, too bad. Their hype only adds to the betting value we’ll get picking any team other than the Washington Wizards.


We need that value, too, because there probably isn’t much margin otherwise for Thursday’s play-in game against the Indiana Pacers – not on the NBA spreads, at least, where the Pacers are priced as 3.5-point road dogs at Unibet. That’s pretty much in line with what you’d expect from two closely-matched teams on paper, playing in D.C. But if Tuesday’s games were any indication, Westbrook isn’t 100 percent for this contest, and he’s not the only one.


It’s A Shoot


The narrative around Westbrook that has everyone freaking out is that he’s an inefficient scorer. People have a reason to be upset; Westbrook has always been a good offensive player, and deservedly won the MVP four years ago at the peak of his powers. But the man has limitations, especially when it comes to shot selection from beyond the elbow. It is what it is.


Speaking of limitations, Westbrook didn’t seem very much at ease during Tuesday’s play-in game against the Boston Celtics, which the Celtics won 118-100 as 2-point home faves. He put up some eye-popping numbers as usual: 20 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks. However, Westbrook also shot 6-for-18, missing all four of his trey attempts, and admitted after the game that he was dealing with some “bumps and bruises.” Bradley Beal (sore hamstring) also needed 25 shots to score his team-leading 22 points.


Malcolm Tent


The Pacers haven’t been healthy themselves for quite a while, and tensions have been running high between the players and head coach Nate Bjorkgren, but they managed to put that aside and beat the Charlotte Hornets (+1.5 away) 144-117 in Tuesday’s other play-in. This was despite losing Caris LeVert to COVID-19 protocols before the game. He’ll almost certainly have to sit out at least the next week as well.


This isn’t a death sentence for Indiana’s playoff hopes – LeVert has performed somewhere around league average since joining the Pacers in that big four-team trade that sent Victor Oladipo to the Houston Rockets. Things get more serious if Malcolm Brogdon (sore hamstring) can’t play on Thursday. Brodgon looked fine against the Hornets, though, scoring an efficient 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting while playing just 21 minutes. The Under might be the better choice on the NBA odds board if Brogdon doesn’t suit up, but I’m going to stick with Indiana ATS until I hear otherwise.


NBA Pick: Pacers +3.5 (–109) at Unibet

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