Indiana at New York
Time: 6:30 PM CT, ESPN
Spread: IND -8.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Indiana Pacers have won seven of its last nine games to improve to 27-14 on the season. Indiana will travel to face the New York Knicks at 6:30 PM CT on ESPN as 8.5-point favorites according to NBA oddsmakers at 5dimes. The betting total is set at 219 points by the same booking agency.
Indiana will be without starting center Myles Turner tonight due to a shoulder injury. The loss is no small one, but the Pacers are still considerably better than the Knicks even without its starting 5-man. Turner has averaged 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 2.78 blocks per game this season, but the Pacers have also arguably the league’s best reserve big man in Domantas Sabonis, who presumably will see the starting assignment with Turner out. Sabonis has averaged 15 points, 9.6 rebounds and three assists per game in just 25 minutes per night this year, and he has posted the best PER on the entire Pacers roster. Also in tow will be starting 2-guard Victor Oladipo, who is becoming more clutch and really stepping into his role as a franchise player.
Oladipo has thrived since leaving Orlando and Oklahoma City, as the Pacers true No.1 option and a former No. 2 overall pick who is averaging just a hair shy of 20 points per game while adding six rebounds and five assists per night. Small forward Bojan Bogdanovic has quietly become an efficient No. 2 option for the Pacers, as well. He is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 44 percent from three-point range, while averaging 16.2 points and four rebounds per game. The Pacers get steady and effective contributions from Thaddeus Young, Tyreke Evans, and Darren Collison; with Cory Joseph, Doug McDermott, and rookie Aaron Holiday rounding out the rotation.
Indy has to be considered a threat in the East given its depth and outstanding talent in Oladipo, but it will need a healthy roster to have a reasonable chance against the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, and even the Philadelphia 76ers. Indiana has a positive-5.0 point differential, which is nearly as good as the Raptors, but the Bucks are almost quietly having a much better season than either team.
Though the Pacers trail Milwaukee by only three games in the standings, the Bucks have a positive-9.5 point differential and have won eight of its past ten games. For Indiana to usurp that top spot, it will take sustained greatness by Oladipo as well as Turner beginning to show some more offensive signs once this shoulder injury has subsided. Of course, his injury may end up being a blessing in disguise if it turns out that Sabonis looks better as a starter, anyway.
Sabonis has thrived since coming with Oladipo from Oklahoma City, where he spent his rookie season being misused as a stretch-4. Given Sabonis’ feathery touch around the basket and penchant for rebounding the ball, he is much better on the interior. All the Pacers have done is properly utilize two discarded talents it obtained for franchise player Paul George, but the Pacers have a solid and respectable team that is far better than most felt it would be when George departed for the Thunder via that trade.
The New York Knicks are 10-31 and without much of a real direction in a season that was expected to go as such without its star player Kristaps Porzingis available.
Porzingis was slated for a possible February return, but with the Knicks having no real playoff prospects, rushing him back seems as pointless as it does implausible. Without Porzingis, the Knicks have suffered from having no real identity, and no real star player. Rookie Kevin Knox has shown some encouraging signs, and Tim Hardaway Jr has put together a great scoring season. But the Knicks still have won just one of its last 10 games, while having a negative 8.5-point differential and one of the worst defenses in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks are giving up 113 points per game while scoring just 102.5 itself, and there is scarcely a source of potential improvement on the current roster. Mario Hezonja has continued to disappoint after signing from Orlando as a free agent over the summer. The Knicks figured it could roll the dice on the former No. 5 overall pick, but for a supposed sharpshooter, Mario has not shot the ball well, nor can he really defend at an NBA level (yet?).
The Knicks have other intriguing reclamation projects, notably Emmanuel Mudiay, but it is unclear what the future of the team will be in terms of starters or an eventual rotation. Mudiay has had his moments, but he did in Denver too, while consistency has eluded him and much of New York’s entire roster, at that.