The Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards each have one chance to make it into the first round of the NBA playoffs. While the Pacers won their first play-in game to get to this point, the Wizards are coming off of a loss, forcing them into this win or go home scenario. In this game, both teams will leave it all on the floor, hoping to set up a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Indiana Pacers Preview
Indiana made quick work of the Charlotte Hornets in their first play-in tournament game, blowing Charlotte out 144-117. In that game, the Pacers outscored the Hornets 69-45 in the first half and never looked back en route to an easy victory. Indiana shot 55% for the contest and had eight players score in double figures in what turned out to be a no-contest.
Against the Wizards, Indiana will have to go on the road if they want to secure a playoff berth. Fortunately, the road has been where the Pacers have thrived this season. Despite a dismal home record for the year, Indiana is tied for the best road record in the NBA at 21-15 on the season and can advance to the first round of the playoffs with a 22nd road victory. Domantas Sabonis has to carry the entire team on his shoulders if they want to make this happen.
Washington Wizards Preview
The Washington Wizards looked like they may not have needed a second play-in game after the first half of their game with the Boston Celtics. Leading at the half, the Wizards fell apart in the second half and lost to the Celtics thanks to a 50-point effort from Boston star Jayson Tatum. Now, with only one chance left to make the postseason, the Wizards will have to lock in defensively, which they have struggled to do all year.
Washington has allowed the most points of any still in contention this NBA season, giving up 118.5 points per game in the regular season. They gave up exactly 118 to the Celtics, despite holding them under 60 in the first half. Against a Pacers team that can score from the perimeter and inside, the Wizards will have their hands full on that end of the floor.
Fortunately for the Wizards, they have Russell Westbrook, who has owned the Pacers this season. Westbrook has averaged 27 points, 18 rebounds, and 20 assists against Indiana so far this year. In this elimination game, he will have to put up numbers that look more like that than the ones that saw him shoot 6-18 against the Celtics on Tuesday. And like Westbrook, let’s not forget that Bradley Beal has been playing monster games throughout the season.
The Pick: Over 237.5
These two teams have played three times this season, with the total score flying over 250 in each matchup. The totals for their two previous matchups this month were 250 and 247, and the massive decrease this time around does not appear to be justified based on their recent history. Play the over and expect both teams to maintain their top-five paces in the NBA over the course of the entire season.