The second half of the NBA season tips off for the Indiana Pacers on Friday night when they travel to Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan to take on the New York Knicks.
It was a rough stretch for Victor Oladipo and Co. as they headed into the All-Star break. Desperate to find their rhythm, having lost six games straight, the team pulled out a victory against the overwhelming favorites to win the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks (-139 BetRivers, DraftKings, -155 FanDuel) and their superstar forward Giannis ‘The Greek Freak’ Antetokounmpo, who is currently favored on all three major Indiana mobile sportsbooks to be named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
But that victory was over a week ago and now the blue and gold have their sights set on not just maintaining their current sixth-place playoff seed, but climbing the ranks to potentially get a series on their home court. They currently sit just two games behind Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers and 3.5 games behind the Miami Heat.
"The goal is to try to get up and get homecourt advantage," said Coach McMillan.
See more from yesterday's practice 🎥 pic.twitter.com/iv15oYfr1U
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 20, 2020
Their first step is going to be battling the Knicks, who enter Friday night’s game with a 17-38 record. According to the sportsbook at FanDuel, the Pacers are a -6 point favorite, bolstered by the fact that over the break the team has lifted the previous minutes restriction placed on All-Star guard Oladipo.
The Pacers are also -260 on the money line, while the Knicks are +210. The last time these two teams met, back at the beginning of February, the Knicks held off the Pacers to notch a 92-85 victory.
Playoff bound, championship longshots
With just 27 games left in their schedule the Pacers look to have the momentum and firepower to cruise their way into the playoffs. That being said, they are longshots to lock up their division (+2500 on BetRivers). Obviously it’s because they would need to overtake the Bucks to do so. The Bucks, currently sitting at a massive -10000 to take the Central Division, have a 14.5 game lead in both the Division and the Conference and are about as sure a bet as there is to keep their standing in the Division.
But if you are determined to put the Pacers in the NBA Finals, you can find the best odds on them emerging from the East over on FanDuel where they are getting +2700 to win the Eastern Conference Finals, where as you will only get +2500 on both DraftKings and BetRivers.
Think that the Pacers will go all the way? For sure you should also place that bet over on FanDuel, which sees the them as the 12th most likely team to win at +10000. Both DraftKings and BetRivers also slot them in 12th but are only going to give you +6600 on your money.
Two-game road trip
After taking on the Knicks, the Pacers cross the northern U.S. border and enter the Scotiabank Arena on Sunday to take on the defending NBA Finals champions Toronto Raptors.
Even after losing their NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Raptors are still one of the best teams in the National Basketball Association, boasting a 40-15 record and sitting at the top of the Atlantic Division, 1.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics.
The Raptors, led by point guard Kyle Lowry and standout forward Pascal Siakam, are slight favorites (-143 DraftKings) to hold off the Celtics (+120) to take the Division. When it comes to winning the Eastern Conference, you can get the Raptors at +850 on FanDuel, behind the Bucks, 76ers, and Heat, and at the same odds as the Celtics.