The first games of the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament are here, with this particular matchup featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers. Cleveland has had a slow start to the 2023-24 regular season, boasting just a 2-3 record through its first five games.
The Pacers are 2-2 through four games but are fresh off a 51-point loss against Boston on the road. Indiana was missing Tyrese Haliburton, but that is hardly an excuse to lose by such a large amount.
This game holds the most importance of any thus far, as it counts towards the “Group Stage” of the In-Season Tournament. Can the Cavs build off of a huge road win against New York, or will they drop their first game of the Group Stage to this fast-paced Pacers team?
Indiana Pacers Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Prediction
Teams and players are already in mid-season form regarding uncertain injury designations and last-minute scratches. For this matchup between the Pacers and the Cavs, we have key players on both sides who are coin flips as far as their availability to play later tonight.
Tyrese Haliburton, Darius Garland, and Jarrett Allen are all questionable to play tonight: Haliburton missed the ‘Cers last game, while Garland (four games) and Allen (five games) have each been unavailable for most of the preseason and season thus far.
Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the day, but the biggest betting line mover for this game will be Tyrese Haliburton. In three games with the Pacers this season, Haliburton has averaged 20 points, 12.3 assists, and 5.3 rebounds on 46% shooting from the field and 33% from deep. The Pacers were 2-1 in those games, with wins over the Wizards and the Cavs by double-digits (on the road.) Still, Cleveland didn’t have several key players, so we won’t read too much into that.
In those three games with Hali, the ‘Cers had the seventh-highest net rating (+9.0) in the NBA, exemplifying Tyrese’s importance to their starting unit. In their most recent game against Boston, the Pacers had a net rating of -47.7. Yikes.
Sure, this is a small sample size, but it is a similar trend to what we have seen over the past year. Indiana’s record last season when he was playing (28-28) versus when he was unavailable to suit up (7-19) is staggering, to say the least.
If Haliburton plays and Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen continue to miss time, the Pacers are a strong play as a home dog at +3, although that line could move quite a bit if that is the case. They have been a much-improved team, minus the Boston game, and their depth is extremely impressive and should help keep them in most games, including this one.
If Haliburton does not play, we will hammer the Cavs line, no matter where the line is at.
Lastly, if Haliburton plays, but only one of Darius Garland or Jarrett Allen is available, we will have to re-evaluate where the line is at. Consider live betting at that point.
Indiana Pacers Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Prediction: Pacers +3
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Indiana Pacers Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Best Odds
The Cleveland Cavaliers are three-point road favorites against the Indiana Pacers for their first In-Season Tournament “Group Stage” game. Cleveland has moneyline odds of -142, while the ‘Cers are +120 to win outright at home. The point total for this matchup stands at 225.5 points, indicating a relatively high-scoring game.
Indiana Pacers Starting Lineup
Cleveland Cavaliers Starting Lineup
Indiana Pacers Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Injuries
Ty Jerome and Ricky Rubio have been listed as out for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night and likely for the foreseeable future, as well. Meanwhile, Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen boast questionable tags for this In-Season Tournament game.
The Pacers also have two players listed as questionable: Tyrese Haliburton and Jalen Smith. Haliburton missed Indiana’s last game against Boston; the Pacers got destroyed by 51 points in his absence.
Indiana Pacers Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Key Matchups
It should come as no shock to anyone that the Indiana Pacers like a fast-paced game where they can get out in transition in an attempt to rim-run Obi Toppin and try to find open three-point shooters on the wings. The Pacers rank second in the NBA in PACE behind a transition maestro in Tyrese Haliburton. Few guards in the league can compete with his efficiency, vision, and passing in transition.
However, the Cavaliers play a completely different kind of game; they love to slow the game down and search for the best looks in the half-court, while also utilizing their versatile defense on the other end of the floor. Limiting fastbreak opportunities for opponents is paramount to this team. Cleveland currently ranks 25th in PACE, but with a larger sample size, it wouldn’t shock us if it finished between 27th and 30th in the NBA by the end of the season.
The bottom line: whichever team enforces their preferred pace is going to have a huge advantage and a much better chance at winning this game. Advantage: ???