Unknowns Make Indiana Pacers Tough Bet For NBA Bubble Life

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With the NBA set to restart Thursday in the bubble at the Walt Disney World sports complex in Orlando, few teams are as difficult to figure out for sports betting purposes as the Indiana Pacers.

First, the good news: The Pacers have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, having gone 39-26 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the season for four months. There is no worry about playing their way into the postseason, and coach Nate McMillan can use the eight games in the bubble as preparation and to fine-tune his rotation.

And now, the bad news: McMillan will be without at least one All-Star for the start of bubble play as starting center Domantas Sabonis has gone to Los Angeles to receive treatment for plantar fasciitis. It is a double blow since Sabonis, who is averaging 18.5 points and 12.4 rebounds, will also have to be quarantined for 14 days upon his return, though the team could ask for an exemption to shorten the duration of his absence.

Beyond Sabonis, there are some other factors that make the Pacers a challenging play in terms of a playoff run that would end a 20-year NBA Finals drought.

How the sportsbooks see the Pacers

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Sportsbooks across the state have pegged the Pacers as a second-tier team in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks — who have the best record in the league — and the reigning NBA Finals champion Toronto Raptors. As a result, Indiana is a longshot to even get out of the East, with the shortest odds coming from Caesars Online at +3000.

The most common offering to win the conference is +4000 from BetRivers, DraftKings, BetMGM, and Unibet — the most recent sportsbook to enter the Hoosier State who will begin accepting online wagers Thursday. FanDuel has the Pacers as bigger longshots at +6500.

Winning their first NBA title in franchise history appears even more daunting. PointsBet is the most bullish on the Pacers at +8000, but everyone else is +10000 or longer, Caesars (+12500), and FanDuel (+13000) the outliers on the other side.

BetMGM is the only sportsbook offering an over/under for wins in the bubble, setting the line at +160 for over 4.5 wins and -200 for under. PointsBet is offering two plays for individual playoff statistical leaders with Sabonis a +700 selection for rebounds per game and Malcolm Brogdon a +1600 option to lead in assists per contest.

Whither Oladipo?

One key reason the Pacers are a challenging play is the still-unknown status of star guard Victor Oladipo. The two-time All-Star was limited to 13 games after suffering a right knee injury, averaging 13.8 points and 3.0 assists, and has not committed to playing in the bubble despite participating in the team’s scrimmages in Orlando.

With Oladipo and Brogdon — who tested positive for COVID-19 and completed quarantine July 15 — the Pacers have a dynamic backcourt that could compensate offensively for the loss of Sabonis. Myles Turner will take on more frontcourt responsibilities on both ends of the court, and McMillan will be adjusting his bench to figure out who will join Turner as rim protectors on the defensive end.

Still, Oladipo’s speed and explosiveness could be game changers should he elect to play in the bubble. And since the Pacers are already in the postseason, McMillan could let his guard find his sea legs in the eight regular-season contests ahead of the playoffs. Should Sabonis be healthy — both in terms of his foot and successfully quarantining upon his return to Orlando — a full-strength Pacers squad could prove to have high value as a sleeper in the Eastern Conference.

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Chris Altruda

Chris Altruda has been a sportswriter with ESPN, The Associated Press, and STATS over more than two decades. He recently expanded into covering sports betting and gambling around the Midwest.

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