The NBA East is a four-team race? Not so fast, my friend. The usual suspects have begun to separate themselves from the pack as we near the halfway point of the NBA season.
Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors are cruising, the Celtics are righting the ship, the 76ers have a three-headed monster and Giannis Antetokounmpo is an NBA MVP betting frontrunner in Milwaukee.
Those four teams are the favorites to come out of the now-LeBron-less Eastern Conference: Toronto (+175 at 888Sport), Boston (+190), Philadelphia (+300) and Milwaukee (+600) lead the pack. Basketball oddsmakers may want to consider a fifth.
The Indiana Pacers are on the move, and after a breakout season in Year 1 after the Paul George trade, could be a sneaky pick for NBA betting fans in an Eastern Conference that feels up for grabs despite the frontrunners. Here’s why.
Prior to Tuesday’s head-scratching loss to the Cavaliers, the Pacers had won seven in a row that included victories over Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Let’s focus on the latter W. The hot stretch has brought Victor Oladipo and the Pacers within a single game of the Bucks, who are 13-9 since a 7-0 start. That’s still good, but this division won’t be a runaway.
In that span they’ve got the second best net rating in the NBA (behind only the Celtics) and the league’s best defense. They’ve accomplished the second half of this with Oladipo, who appears to be past the sore knee issues he was suffering through early in the month. The defense has been otherworldly, and Oladipo is only going to help improve an offense that’s 20th in the league.Oddsmakers feel confident in the Greek Freak and the Bucks, who are -360 to win the Central at 888Sport). But the Pacers are going to keep it close all year given their depth and style (slow and ugly). They simply won’t be blown out, and their star power will win them a few close games.
That’s why should grab them as a value bet at +300 on 888Sport. It’s a two-team race (sorry, Detroit), which also helps.
Could they actually do it? The East feels up for grabs because LeBron James no longer plays in it. But there’s still a ton of talent in the conference. Still, Indiana plays their own way and it’s resulted in wins over Boston, Milwaukee and Philadelphia already.
Only the Cavaliers are playing slower in the Eastern Conference; they want to dirty up the game, and that plays well in the postseason. Plus, they’ve got the experience. This is a team that returned just about everyone – and added Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott – from a group that took LeBron James and the Cavs to seven games in the first round of last year’s postseason.
Oladipo, Myles Turner, Thaddeus Young and Darren Collison make up a veteran core that can hang with just about anyone in the conference. It’d be unlikely, but their play has spoken for itself this season. For that reason, their +3000 odds to take home the Eastern crown at Karamba look like fair value at this moment.
It’s unfortunate that their first test against the East-favorite Raptors will come on the second half of a back-to-back. Toronto’s been off since Sunday, but they’ve also lost four of six and are playing in their first game back home after a West Coast road trip, which is always a difficult game.
Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry are both questionable for the game, which could balance the matchup considering Toronto is 11-4 at home.
It’s worth checking in on Lowry’s and Ibaka’s status prior to the game, but if the Pacers play everyone on the second half of the back-to-back we like them to keep this one close and prove once again that they’re real players in the East. Bet Indiana +4.5 over Toronto with Karamba.
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