NBA Play-In Tournament Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Hornets vs. Pacers, Wizards vs. Celtics (Tuesday, May 18)

NBA Play-In Tournament Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Staff’s Best Bets for Hornets vs. Pacers, Wizards vs. Celtics (Tuesday, May 18) article feature image
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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Bradley Beal #3 of the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.

  • The NBA Play-In Tournament finally gets under way on Tuesday with Hornets vs. Pacers and Wizards vs. Celtics.
  • The Action Network staff is tackling each Eastern Conference game from multiple betting angles.
  • See how they're betting tonight's NBA action, below.

The NBA Play-In Tournament is finally here and we’ve got all of the action covered for Tuesday two pivotal matchups on TNT: Hornets vs. Pacers (6:30 p.m. ET) Celtics vs. Wizards (9 p.m. ET).

But our NBA analysts are tackling tonight’s two games from every angle. They betting spreads, totals and moneylines in tonight’s games. You can find their analysis and picks below.

NBA Odds & Picks

Click on a pick to skip ahead
Hornets vs. Pacers Total
6:30 p.m. ET
Hornets vs. Pacers Total
6:30 p.m. ET
Hornets vs. Pacers Moneyline
6:30 p.m. ET
Wizards vs. Celtics Spread 
9 p.m. ET
Wizards vs. Celtics Total
9 p.m. ET

Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers

Pick
Under 227.5
Book
PointsBet
Tipoff
6:30 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Kenny Ducey: The Indiana Pacers have been kings of pace lately, but the same can’t be said about the Charlotte Hornets. In fact, the Hornets were the third-worst team in the NBA this year at hitting the over, going just 31-40-1, which is brutal compared to the Pacers’ league-leading 45-27 mark, according to Bet Labs.

Both of these teams have had their issues on defense — particularly Indiana in wake of the Myles Turned injury — but both turned in solid performances down the stretch, posting efficiency ratings of 113.5 or better. The Pacers, to their credit, ranked 10th, though we have to remember there were some tanking or lethargic teams out there.

At any rate, things slow down in the postseason, when the stakes are higher, which is certainly one reason why I’m inclined to believe in these two decent defenses. Another is the potential return of Malcolm Brogdon. Should he play, the pace in this one should be slower than expected.

Many of the games that helped Indiana hit overs like crazy in the final month of the season were without Brogdon, who actually has killed the over when he’s been on the floor. Indiana’s pace rating with Brogdon on the floor this season was 101.02, according to NBA Advanced Stats, while it was 104.92 without him on the court. That’s a huge, huge difference that can’t be ignored.

I’m taking this under with the assumption that Brogdon will be good to go, but keep an eye out for his status before firing it up. Two defenses trending up, the status of some scorers up in the air and a slower pace should get us there.

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Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers

Pick
Over 227
Book
PointsBet
Tipoff
6:30 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Brandon Anderson: Outside of Knicks first half, few bets in sports have been safer down the stretch than seeing an Indiana Pacers game without Myles Turner and blindly betting the over.

Indiana’s entire defense is built around funneling opponents to the rim and then letting its awesome rim protector take care of things from there, so it should be no surprise that the Pacers have struggled mightily to defend without Turner there at the rim to stop all the bleeding. Indiana has tried to find other solutions without Turner with some slight, relative success, but Pacers games have fundamentally changed. They’re now faster paced and much higher scoring.

Per Killer Sports, 18-of-25 Pacers games without Myles Turner hit the over this year, a 72% hit rate on the over. And these games aren’t just barely getting over. Turner-less Pacers games have closed with a total averaging 232.9 but ended up seeing 240.5 points, meaning these games are averaging going over by more than seven and a half points.

It’s not too often you see the books be that far off on something, and they’re not close to correcting things either. These games have hit 10 of the last 13 overs, a 77% hit rate, so the over rate is actually increasing.

Yes, it’s the postseason, and that means the games slow down as Kenny mentioned above. Defense gets tougher and points are harder to come by — we’ve all heard it before. But it’s 2021 and this is our first postseason game ever featuring a No. 9 and a No. 10 team, so I’m going with what we’ve seen over the last couple months, not what basketball was like in the 1980s.

In 18 of the Pacers’ games without Turner this season, at least one team has scored 122 points. If that happens, this 227 total is toast.

I’m trusting the Turner trend that made my bank account happy the last few months and sticking with the over. I’ll play to 228.5.


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Charlotte Hornets vs. Indiana Pacers

Pick
Hornets +130
Book
PointsBet
Tipoff
6:30 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Matt Moore: I’ve been on the Hornets train for some time. I wrote about what makes the Hornets better suited for playoff basketball than regular season basketball. Now, the Hornets aren’t in the best place without Gordon Hayward.

However, the Pacers have so many injury issues of their own. Domantas Sabonis is questionable (though he’s expected to play). Malcolm Brogdon is questionable, and hamstring injuries are tough to rush back from, often leading to re-injury.

But even if those two play, this is a bad matchup for the Pacers. Indiana is the second-worst team per possession at scoring vs. switching defenses. The Hornets switch the second-most of any team in the NBA this season. And it’s not just one player, either. TJ McConnell, Brogdon, Caris LeVert, all their ball handlers struggle when teams switch.

The Pacers are 9-17 this season when the opponent makes 13 or more 3-pointers in a game. The Hornets average 13.7 makes per game.

I’m taking the Hornets on the moneyline here to escape the first play-in game and I’ll be eying them in the final play-in game as well.

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Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics

Pick
Wizards +2.5 & ML (+115)
Book
BetMGM
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Raheem Palmer: The Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics are two teams going in opposite directions. The Wizards are 17-5 in their last 23 games with an Offensive Rating of 116.2 (8th), a Defensive Rating of 110.5 (8th) and a total Net Rating of 5.7 (6th).

Meanwhile the the Celtics have been the polar opposite, losing six out of their last eight games. The loss of Jaylen Brown removes their second-leading scorer (24.7 ppg) and one of the best defenders from a team that has been down double digits in a whopping 40 games this season.

This team has struggled to find a groove the entire season between the hangover after playing deep into the NBA bubble, injuries, Jayson Tatum entering the Health and Safety Protocol and the output of talent that has left the franchise the last few years.

Despite how great Tatum and Brown are, at some point you can’t lose players like Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris, Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward without suffering a drop off. After making the Eastern Conference finals in two of the last three seasons this was the year the drop-off finally came.

Betting the Celtics has been like trying to catch a falling knife as many people give this team the benefit of the doubt particularly because they have a budding star in Tatum. It’s the same thing that kept people betting on the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat when the Heat were obviously the better team.

They’re just 12th in Defensive Rating (112.6), 17th in opponent eFG% (54.3%) and they particularly struggle at the rim where they allow teams to shoot a whopping 65.3%, 22nd among NBA teams. This team just hasn’t had great rim protection and with Robert Williams banged up and questionable, Russell Westbrook should get to the paint at will.

In addition, this is a big Wizards team with Robin Lopez and Daniel Gafford and they should get theirs in this matchup. Rui Hachimura is also key in this game as well. With the Wizards being eighth in field goal percentage at the rim, shooting 66.7%, they will find some success here.

The Celtics are 24th in personal fouls at 20.5 per game. Guess who leads the league in free throw attempts? You guessed it, the Wizards. They also lead the league in second chance points so the Wizards size could be a problem here.

The wild card here is Bradley Beal’s health but you could argue he found something in the second half of Sunday’s 115-110 win against the Hornets. He was just 8-of-27 for 25 points but he scored 13 fourth quarter points, which suggests that he got himself into a rhythm as the game went on and I believe some of that could carry over to today.

How you downgrade Beal determines a lot and while I downgraded him enough to back the Hornets in a game where the public was pounding the Wizards on Sunday, I’m not downgrading him as much today.

Tatum is the best player in this game and the Wizards don’t have anyone to defend him. A player of his caliber can win this game himself. Kemba Walker has also looked healthy for the first time all season, averaging 29.8 points per game on 50.6% shooting in his last four games.

Of course the issue for Walker is how he will defend, something that has caused him problems during his first postseason stint with the Celtics. Overall, the Celtics should have no problems scoring but I’m still not trusting this team.

My model actually makes the Celtics a 3-point favorite and my post All-Star break numbers make the Celtics a -1.76 point favorite but I’m not buying it. This Celtics team has been inconsistent all year long.

They’ve struggled to defend, they’ve been down double digits more than half of the season. The Wizards are the public side but I think they’re right in this spot. They’re playing better basketball and right now they may actually be the better team.

I’ll take the  Wizards +2.5 and ML to win the play-in game and attain the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, which means we’ll get to see Westbrook and the Wizards take on Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.

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Washington Wizards vs. Boston Celtics

Pick
Over 232.5
Book
BetMGM
Tipoff
9 p.m. ET
TV
TNT

Malik Smith: There are a number of interesting parallels between these two teams. Both teams got sidetracked around the same time due to COVID. They both started to go in a run in early April, too.

The difference, though, is the Wizards kept on winning and the Celtics’ streak was short lived. Boston lost 10 of its final 15 games and fell into this play-in matchup while Washington won 10 of its final 15 to get to this point.

The Celtics, who have dealt with injuries all season, won’t have Jaylen Brown in this game, but everyone else on their team is expected to play Tuesday. Bradley Beal is hampered by a hamstring injury, be he is expected to start as well.

The Wizards have essentially been the same team all season — they lead the league in Pace (104.67) and put defense on the back burner. The offense hit a new level during their streak. The Wiz ranked seventh on Offensive Rating (116.2) in the last 23 games of the season.

The Celtics’ offense and defense has been about the same even with Brown sidelined over the past eight games. Their Pace has increased slightly, but nowhere close to the tempo that the Wizards like to play.

This game feels like it will come down to whether the Celtics can slow the Wizards down to play a half-court style. Without Brown defending on the wing, that feels like an uphill climb and I suspect we’ll see Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker trying to match the Wizards shot for shot down the stretch. At 232, I think there’s value in the over here up to 235.

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