The Indiana Pacers have struggled through what has been a disappointing season. They finished the campaign with a 34-38 record. That left them in the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference and has forced them into a play-in scenario against the Charlotte Hornets. If they win that game, they would have to face the loser of the Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards matchup in order to compete for the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and an opportunity to face the Philadelphia 76ers in a seven-game first-round series.
Needless to say, the future looks bleak for the Pacers. Even if they win the next two games against the Hornets and the loser of the other play-in matchup, beating the 76ers in a seven-game series would be a nearly impossible situation for Indiana.
Plenty of drama and rumors has surrounded the franchise all season long. From trade rumors surrounding Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis ahead of the NBA trade deadline to Nate Bjorkgren being on the verge of losing his job after just one season as the team’s head coach, things have not gone smoothly.
Now, the Pacers have to put all of the drama and the injury issues behind them and focus on their first play-in game against the Hornets. No one knows the playing status of quite a few players, with Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, Turner, and Edmond Sumner all missing the last game of the season. Both Turner and Lamb are very unlikely to play, but the Pacers are hopeful that Brogdon and Sumner might be able to suit up.
All of that being said, let’s take a look at three reasons why the Pacers are going to defeat the Hornets and move on to being just one win away from making it into the NBA Playoffs.
3. The Absence Of Gordon Hayward
Charlotte has already announced that they will have to play the play-in game against the Pacers without star forward Gordon Hayward. He has missed a ton of time due to a foot injury that he suffered ironically against Indiana on April 2. That absence will be a huge loss for the Hornets.
Hayward has been able to play in 44 games this season in his first year with the Hornets. He has averaged 19.6 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Those numbers show how important he is to this team and without him they have had an obvious hole, especially on the offensive end of the court.
The Pacers are catching a major break by not having to deal with Hayward’s ability to score and create for his teammates. That will be a big part of them being able to knock off the Hornets.
2. Pacers’ Role Players Are Playing At A Very High Level
Next up, the Pacers have to be confident about their role players and the way they have been playing. If Brogdon is able to play, the Pacers will have three star-caliber players on the court in him, Sabonis, and Caris LeVert. The players around him need to step up and they have been playing at a high level in recent weeks.
Oshae Brissett is coming off of a game against the Toronto Raptors to end the season with 31 points and 10 rebounds. He has shot the ball well and will be a major key for the Pacers making it into the playoffs. TJ McConnell, Kelan Martin, Doug McDermott, Justin Holiday, and Goga Bitadze have all been playing well. That gives the Pacers a good chance to win this game if they continue on that trend.
Indiana has a very deep roster when they are playing to their full ability. If Sumner and Brogdon can return for this game, the Pacers are going to be even deeper and more dangerous.
1. The Caris LeVert-Domantas Sabonis Duo Is Figuring Things Out
One of the biggest positives to come from the Brogdon injury has been Caris LeVert becoming the Pacers’ primary ball-handler. He has thrived in that role and his chemistry with Domantas Sabonis has been impressive. If that continues against the Hornets, the Pacers are going to be a dangerous team for anyone to face.
LeVert and Sabonis are legitimate stars and the future with them in Indiana is bright. When Kevin Pritchard made the move to acquire LeVert, everyone knew that it could end up being a steal. That is exactly what things are looking like for Indiana.
Whether or not the Pacers defeat the Hornets, this duo coming together with chemistry will be a major plus for the future. However, it also gives them a good chance to advance at least one more step towards the playoffs.