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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Two games into the 2014 NBA Playoffs, and handicappers still don’t have a firm grip on what the heck the Indiana Pacers are going to be doing in the Eastern brackets this season. They’re a #1 seed with the talent to go the distance. They’ve been playing more like a #8 seed (or worse) in recent weeks.

Game One: absolutely horrible, consistent with their prior form

Game Two: a blowout, consistent with what a #1 seed should do

The only obvious key is that it’s the BENCH players of Indiana who need to thrive for the team to win. The starters still seem to have chemistry issues that prevent them from playing at peak intensity on both sides of the floor. Bench players with a sense of the moment might be able to pull them through this series…and help get the ship right in time for later action (the winner of the Washington/Chicago series would be up next). Bench players who can only play well once a week aren’t going to pull the team out of their extended funk.

This is our first look at the Indiana/Atlanta series here in our daily previews. Let’s study the final regular season numbers as a quick review…


Offensive Efficiency

Indiana: 101.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #22 in the NBA)

Atlanta: 103.4 per 100 possessions (ranked #15 in the NBA)

Neither team was good on offense after you adjust for all the lousy defenses in the Eastern Conference. Indiana was particularly embarrassing on this side of the ball during their long slump. Some players wouldn’t pass or set proper screens for others. Atlanta can be dangerous when their treys are falling. But, aren’t that dangerous if they’re not.


Defensive Efficiency

Indiana: 96.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #1 in the NBA)

Atlanta: 104.1 per 100 possessions (ranked #14 in the NBA)

Indiana had a historically great defense during the best of times, and a still respectable defense during the slump. Atlanta ranks at or below league average once you adjust for their weak schedule. You saw in Game One that Indiana’s defense can lose its fire when things are going poorly.


Pace Ranking

Indiana: #20

Atlanta: #13

Atlanta is the faster of the two teams, which could be a problem if Indiana does snap out of it. Future games will be played in the Indiana comfort zone, particularly if it’s a tight series that goes six or seven games (which is more likely now that the Pacers evened things up).


Against the Spread

Indiana: 38-43-1

Atlanta: 38-43-1

Both teams were money burners during the season. Though, Indiana bottomed out at 5-25-1 over a 31 game stretch…which is one of the money-burning stretches in all of NBA betting history! Neither one right now is playing at a level that would suggest you should be backing the eventual winner in the next round. That’s why so many people are picking Washington to reach the Eastern Finals!


Las Vegas Line:

Indiana by 2, total of 186

Clearly, the market still respects Indiana. They’re a ROAD favorite here despite spending most of the last several weeks as a borderline playoff team at best. Oddsmakers have to price based on potential, particularly with recent TV wins over Atlanta (Tuesday Night) and Oklahoma City (a week ago Sunday) looming large in the public’s minds. We’ll say this…if Indiana’s chemistry really is awful, then the wrong team is favored…but if Indiana’s back on the right track…then this line is way too low.

JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his on-site sources and basketball insiders to get the right read on the Pacers. That means EVERYTHING in this game and this series. Sorry stat handicappers, this series isn’t for you! If you know what level of effort Indiana is going to bring, then the Las Vegas bets just make themselves.

Indiana/Atlanta has a good chance to be part of a Thursday Night NBA PLAYOFF PARLAY. You can purchase the final word right here at the website with your credit card in the hours leading up to tipoff. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about NBA/MLB combination packages when you call, and about special horse racing offers. The KENTUCKY DERBY will be here before you know it!

Our sequence of first round previews continues Friday with Toronto at Brooklyn. That leaves only Miami at Charlotte, which will be featured Saturday when they play their third game. Sunday brings our weekly prime time MLB preview. This week’s it’s the LA Angels and the NY Yankees. Then, it’s back to basketball next week as we focus on the most exciting matchup of the night through the rest of the first round.

Get important handicapping information every day here in the NOTEBOOK. Then hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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