2021 NBA Play-in Tournament – Game 1 Preview
- When: May 18, 2021
- Time: 6:30 PM EST
- TV: TNT
- Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana
(9) Indiana Pacers
I believed in the Pacers being a sneaky good team but nonetheless at this rate their ceiling might have been Conference Semifinals at the best this season. Do they still have a shot at taking the 8th seed at best this season? All signs favor the Pacers being the better team in this game but with a few key injuries certainly not the dominant team as they could have been.
The only All-Star between these two teams is Domantas Sabonis who rightfully earned his All-Star bid. One of the promising players for the Pacers’ future is Caris LeVert who they acquired from the Nets in a multi-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn. After a brief medical scare, LeVert has come back to average 20.2 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 4.6 rebounds per game.
This is the game that could come down to the wire because Indiana is in the middle of the pack when it comes to their defensive rating. Not having T.J. Warren due to injury also hurts Indiana’s chances of being more of the dominant offensive team. How about rebounding and interior defense? Well, they’re down Myles Turner with an injury as well. However, the Pacers can have a balanced offense across Levert, Malcolm Brogdon T.J. McConnell, Justin Holiday, and Doug McDermott between the starting unit and bench.
(10) Charlotte Hornets
This has to get even more exciting with a Rookie of the Year candidate seeing extra games AFTER the season ends. LaMelo Ball comes in as the second pick from the 2020 NBA Draft. He could arguably be considered the main factor of the Hornets’ success this year. I personally have never met someone who identified as a “Hornets fan” (and no offense to that Hornet fan reading this).
What do we know about the Hornets outside of the youngest Ball brother and Michael Jordan? Gordon Hayward signed a 4-year deal this past offseason and we all kind of scratched our heads. The worse the Hornets could do at this rate was maybe not finishing last and give LaMelo his playing time to get acquainted with the NBA.
However, the Hornets developed themselves a legitimate argument of “Most Overachieved Team” this season. Except, I’d say the New York Knicks run away with that title this year. Terry Rozier is arguably the team’s best player and leading scorer averaging 20 points a game. The promising sign for the Hornets is that they won the season series 2-1 against the Hornets. The most recent game was played on April 2, 2021, with the Hornets winning 114-97 in Indiana. LaMelo Ball did not play for Charlotte and the Pacers were without Turner and Warren of course.
Top players to watch
Domantas Sabonis: 2020-2021 Season
- 20.3 PPG
- 6.7 APG
- 12.0 RPG
- 54% FG
Terry Rozier: 2020-2021 Season
- 20.4 PPG
- 4.4 APG
- 4.4 RPG
- 45% FG
Where should the money go?
Update 5/18/21 – 3:00 PM EST:
The Pacers announced that Caris LeVert will not play in Game 1 of the Play-in Tournament. my original prediction is below. However, you’ll see my updated prediction in the expert pick chart below!
A favorable nod to the Pacers and the potential of their bench is better than the Hornets for one night. I’ll take that as the best FAVORABLE pick. However, this is the one game where the one-and-done ordeal could really disappoint the Pacers season even more so.
The Hornets have nothing to lose in a season we may have thought was lost when LaMelo went down with the injury. Either team that wins still has one more game to play and it’s probably against a team they may not have a better chance against than this game.
As always check out our expert daily picks too!
2021 NBA Play-in Tournament Schedule – Eastern Conference
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
Thursday, May 20, 2021