Indiana Pacers vs Phoenix Suns: Should You Back the Underdog Pacers?

The best team in the league is facing off against one of the worst that may be missing several top guys. Easy call? Maybe not.
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Indiana Pacers vs Phoenix Suns: Should You Back the Underdog Pacers?

On paper, this is an easy call. Too easy, in fact.

Let's start with the Suns, who in a season of turmoil where no team can be counted on, are the most reliable thing going. They are the best team in the league by any conceivable metric, with the best net rating and a three-game lead over the Warriors for the best record in basketball. They are also on yet another hot streak, having just swept a five-game road trip that ended with a solid win over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night. They have covered seven of nine, and with 13 of their next 19 games at home, are poised to march to the top seed in the Western Conference and maybe a second straight trip to the NBA Finals.

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Their next step on that journey would appear to be an easy one. The Pacers are already all but out of the Eastern Conference playoff race, sitting five and a half games back of 10th seed - the same distance as they are from the tanking Pistons. Their once abnormally high net rating has fallen from just outside the top 10 down to 18th in the league, and over the last four weeks, they have just three wins and are getting outscored by 4.2 points per 100 possessions, or about 14 points per 100 worse than the Suns in the same time frame.

Coincidentally, that's about the number for the spread here. Throw in the fact that Phoenix is home, and this should be a no brainer.

Except it isn't. For one, the Pacers have won two in a row, both on the road, against the desperate Lakers and the might Warriors (albeit without Draymond Green). The win in Golden State was particularly impressive, as it came with all three of Domantas Sabonis, Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon sidelined. Sabonis will be out in Phoenix for sure, while LeVert and Brogdon are questionable.

Also questionable is whether Indy is better without them. The Pacers' top players haven't clicked all season long, and the younger guys were more than ready to take advantage of the opportunity. They'll likely play like they have nothing to lose here, which is always a dangerous situation for the favorite.

The Suns are 5-4 against the spread as a double-digit home favorite this season, so it's not like they've taken advantage of this sort of game every time in the past. On paper, they're still the smart pick, but something about the Pacers right now should give pause to anyone picking against them.

These teams faced off a week ago and the Pacers had a late third-quarter lead before completely falling apart. They know they can hang with the Suns, and will be out to prove it tonight - not with a win, but with a solid effort. Take the points on the road.

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insightpicks

Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.

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