Indiana Pacers vs Phoenix Suns

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

The Indiana Pacers (16-19) played for the final time without their piece of the James Harden deal. Tonight, Caris LeVert makes his debut for the team that originally drafted him. LeVert was sidelined after a mass was found on his kidney during a routine physical. Now that LeVert is healthy, the Pacers have the third creative scorer on offense that they desired. LeVert’s length also helps on defense, where the Pacers have struggled somewhat this season.

Indiana opened the second half of their season last night against LeBron James and the Lakers. As of press time, the Pacers led 34-30 in the second quarter. (They lost 105-100).

Meanwhile, the Suns (25-11), who started the second half in second place behind the Jazz in the Western Conference, opened their playoff push with a 127-121 win against the Trail Blazers. Devin Booker, whose knee injury kept him from playing in the All-Star game, scored 35 points to lead the Suns to their fifth consecutive win. Chris Paul scored 19 points, and Mikal Bridges added 18 points. Booker’s three with 5:00 left gave Phoenix a 10 point lead, and Portland never could close the gap.

Both teams will enter tonight’s game at almost full strength, which has been a rarity this season. Indiana’s TJ Warren has been out since March fifth and is months away from returning with a foot injury. Phoenix’s Cameron Johnson is currently on health and safety protocols and is doubtful for tonight’s game.

Pacers Very Much In Playoff Contention

The Indiana Pacers didn’t benefit as they imagined as the third team in the James Harden blockbuster. They received Caris LeVert from the Nets, but his physical revealed a mass on his left kidney. He makes his Pacers debut tonight, and will be a third offensive creator along with Malcolm Brogdan and Domantas Sabonis. That gives the Pacers some hope, but they are in the midst of a difficult Western Conference road swing against the Lakers (last night), Suns (tonight), and Nuggets (Monday).

Leading the way for the Pacers has been Sabonis and Brogdon. Sabonis has averaged 20.8 ppg, 11.1 rpg, and 6.0 apg. Brogdon has averaged 21.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg, and 6.2 apg. Doug McDermott, a 36.4% three-point shooter, has averaged 13.2 ppg and 4.0 rpg.

Offensively, the Pacers are 13th in the NBA in effective field goal percentage (54.1%), 13th in turnover percentage (12.3%), 24th in offensive rebounding percentage (19.6%), and 19th in free throws per field goal attempts (.184). Defensively, Indiana is 14th in opponent’s effective field goal percentage (53.8%), sixth in opponent turnover percentage (13.7%), 23rd in defensive rebounding percentage (76.9%), and 19th in opponent’s free throws per field goal attempts (.202).

Red Hot Suns Look to Extend Winning Streak

The Phoenix Suns look for their sixth consecutive win tonight against a Pacers team on the tail end of a road back-to-back. Indiana played the Lakers last night in a tough matchup to start the second half of the season. All-star Devin Booker leads seven Suns who average double figures with 25.2 ppg and 4.5 apg, while Mikal Bridges has scored 13.8 ppg and 5.0 rpg while shooting 42.1% from beyond the arc. All-star Chris Paul (16.1 ppg) leads the team in assists with 8.8 per game, while Deandre Ayton averages a double-double (14.4 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.1 bpg).

The Suns are fifth in effective field goal percentage (56.3%), sixth in turnover percentage (11.9%), 24th in offensive rebounding percentage (19.6%), and 25th in free throws per field goal attempt (.175). Defensively, Phoenix has held its opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 52.3%, good enough for fifth in the league. The Suns are 18th in the league in defensive turnover percentage (12.0%), tenth in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (78.7%), and 13th in the league in opponent’s free throw per field goal attempt (.194).

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet

So the Pacers are on the back end of a tough road back-to-back against the second-best team in the Western Conference. That would be several disadvantages in one, but the Pacers have some things going for them. They started well against the Lakers and will add an important piece in Caris LeVert. His story, and his lineup debut, will give the Pacers a little extra juice. Also, just coming off the All-Star break helps with the fatigue as well. This should be a little closer than expected, which is why I think the Pacers will cover.

Indiana +6.5

Want another opinion on this pick?


Full-Game Total Pick

Both teams have trended toward the OVER. Phoenix is healthy, and have balanced scoring deep into their bench. They should be able to maintain their scoring pace throughout this game. Indiana’s Caris LeVert will debut tonight, and how much he plays is still to be determined. He will make an impact with his presence, and his offensive creativity. He also provides a little more depth, which should also help with the scoring. I think the total is a little too low to play the UNDER, so I’m taking the OVER in this one.

OVER 221