The Charlotte Hornets (10) and the Indiana Pacers (9) will meet on Tuesday to tip off the NBA’s 2021 Eastern Conference Play-in Tournament Nine-Ten Game. Both teams are dinged up, but the Hornets lost five games in a row to end the season and are desperately missing veteran Gordon Hayward (fractured foot). Meanwhile, the Pacers are a franchise in turmoil where everyone on the team despises rookie head coach Nate Bjorkgren.

NBA Play-in Game Nine-Ten Preview Indiana Pacers Charlotte Hornets
Charlotte Hornets rookie point guard LaMelo Ball drives to the basket against Domantas Sabonis from the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers and Hornets square off in the NBA Play-in Tournament in the Nine-Ten Game. (Image: Jared C. Tilton/Getty)

The play-in tournament is set up so that a bubble team from the Nine-Ten Game must win two games to advance to the postseason, but faces elimination if they lose one game.

The winner of the Nine-Ten Game meets the loser of the Seven-Eight Game (Boston Celtics vs Washington Wizards) for a shot at securing the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The loser of the second game goes home on the bubble.

NBA Play-in Tournament: East Nine-Ten Game
Charlotte Hornets (33-39) at Indiana Pacers (34-38)
  • Tip-off: 3:30pm PT
  • Location: Bakers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
  • Point Spread: IND -1.5
  • Total: 227.5 o/u
  • Moneyline: CLT +130 / IND -150

Indiana is a slim favorite even though two starters – and their leading scorers – Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon are listed as questionable on the injury report. Caris LeVert is out after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Hornets and Pacers played three times during the regular season, with the Hornets winning the matchup 2-1.

Betting the Pacers/Hornets

Oddsmakers opened the line on Sunday night with Indiana the consensus favorite over Charlotte. A steady flow of money backed the Pacers at the opening number of -1.5. By Monday evening, the line moved as high as -3.5. On Tuesday morning, the line was -3.5, but quickly dropped after the LeVert news dropped. The line is currently -1.5.

The Pacers had a losing record at home (13-23) this season, and played much better on the road (21-15). They were the sixth-worst betting team in the NBA with a 32-39-1 ATS record, whereas the Hornets were in the middle of the road at 36-33-1 ATS.

If you like betting points totals, it’s been a profitable venture during the regular season to bet the Pacers over and the Hornets under. The Pacers are the best over team in the NBA with a 44-27-1 record, whereas the Hornets are the third-best under team in the NBA at 40-31-1.

The Pacers are the sixth-highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 115.3 ppg, but their defense is ranked #9 in the league, allowing 113.2 ppg. The Hornets are right behind the Pacers with the 10th-worst defense, allowing 112.7 ppg. On offense, the Hornets find it challenging to score, averaging 109.5 ppg, putting them at #23 in the NBA in offense.

According to a recent update on DraftKings, the Hornets and Pacers are the biggest long shots on the NBA futures board at +50000 odds to win the 2021 NBA Championship.

Indiana Pacers: Everyone hates Bjorkgren

The Pacers limped into the play-in tournament with a 5-7 clip down the stretch. They coughed up the #8 seed and let the red-hot Washington Wizards overtake them for a spot in the Seven-Eight Game against the Boston Celtics.

Bjorkgren, Indiana’s head coach, clashed with the players from the moment he arrived. He might be an offensive guru, but players and fans loved ex-head coach Nate McMillan, who was run out of town after getting swept in the opening round the last two times the Pacers qualified for the postseason. McMillian currently coaches the Atlanta Hawks, who secured the #5 seed in the East.

It looks like Bjorkgren will be a one-and-done coach. The Pacers expect to fire Bjorkgren when the season officially ends.

“It’s the biggest game of the season,” said Bjorkgren. “I like the way we’ve been playing, sharing the basketball, getting contributions off the bench.”

The Pacers can score, but they play crappy defense, especially with center Myles Turner injured. You can get away with outgunning teams in the regular season, but if you can’t get defensive stops in the fourth quarter of a playoff game, then you’re toast.

Brogdon (21.2 ppg) is nursing a sore right hamstring, while Sabonis (20.3 ppg, 12 rebounds) has a left quad injury. LeVert will miss the game due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols. The last thing the Pacers need right now is a COVID outbreak, but if they win, LeVert will be out for 10 to 14 days.

Charlotte Hornets: Buzz City upset material?

The Hornets have a young team, but their future looks bright thanks to Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball. The third-overall pick in the draft lived up to the hype. Ball leads the team in assists and steals, and he’s been a personal highlight machine with dazzling passes from all over the court.

Terry Rozier (20.4 ppg) has been the Hornets’ MVP this season. He held the Hornets together when both Ball (15.7 ppg) and Gordon Hayward (19.6 ppg) went down with injuries. Without Hayward, the Hornets have an uphill battle against a full Pacers squad. The Hornets are 8-16 since Hayward fractured his foot.

“It’s a new season,” said Charlotte’s Myles Bridges. “We’re here now and we still have a chance to make the playoffs. We’re thinking about winning two games and making the playoffs.”

If PJ Washington (12.9 ppg, 6.5 rebounds) and backup point guard Devonte’ Graham (14.8 ppg) can combine for 35-plus points, then the Hornets have a shot at knocking off the Pacers.

Check out more coverage of the 2021 NBA Playoffs.