Pacers vs. Cavaliers Preview: Expect Slow & Low-Scoring Game

Austin Wang breaks down Sunday's NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Pacers vs. Cavaliers Odds

Pacers Odds +3.5
Cavaliers Odds -3.5
Over/Under 212.5
Time 6 p.m. ET
Odds via <!–PointsBet–>PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

Two Central Division foes collide to ring in the new year. This will be the first of four matchups between these two teams this season.

Both teams are coming off three-game losing streaks. The Pacers are going through some issues with a lot of their key backcourt players placed in health and safety protocols: Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte and Jeremy Lamb.

The Cavaliers’ backcourt is also in shambles. The Cavaliers suffered a huge blow when Ricky Rubio tore his ACL in last Tuesday’s game against the Pelicans. Darius Garland is out due to health and safety protocols, and Collin Sexton is out with a season-ending injury.

Which team will turn its misfortunes around on Sunday? Let’s break down this matchup below.

Pacers Backcourt Riddled With Injuries

The Pacers have been going through a rough patch. They’ve lost six of their last eight games. Things aren’t going according to new head coach Rick Carlisle’s plan, as his underachieving team is 13-22 for the season. Both their talented big men, Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner, have been mentioned in trade rumors.

The Pacers will have Brogdon, Duarte, Lamb and Kelan Martin all out due to health and safety protocols. With T.J. McConnell out for the season, this does not give them much depth to work with in the backcourt. Caris LeVert will get all the usage he can handle and is worth looking at for player props. He has eclipsed 20-plus points in the last four games.

To help fill in the void in the backcourt, the Pacers have signed Lance Stephenson, a nice throwback from the past. Stephenson spent six seasons as a member of the Pacers in two different stints.

Without most of their guards, they will have to rely more on Sabonis and Turner in the post, which should slow down this game even more. The Pacers already play at the 23rd-slowest pace in the league, according to NBA Advanced Stats. Indiana will have to match up against the elite interior defense of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley.

The Pacers have gone under in their previous three games. This is no surprise or coincidence with Brogdon out. I don’t expect them to score much against the Cavaliers’ defense.

Cavaliers Continue to Overachieve

The Cavaliers are having a magical season. They have a 20-16 record and are currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. Their regular-season win total line was set at 26.5 before the season, so for them to be in the playoff hunt has been an incredible surprise. They’ve been incredible against the spread, boasting a 25-11 ATS record overall and 14-4 ATS at home.

The Cavaliers will be hoping that Garland will somehow be cleared from health and safety protocol by game time tomorrow. Garland is their leading scorer at 19.5 points per game and is doing so efficiently (47.9% from the field, 38.4% from behind the arc).

It was incredibly sad to see Rubio go down with a torn ACL. He was such a key cog for this Cavaliers team, adding veteran leadership off the bench as the sixth man. They recently traded for Rajon Rondo on Dec. 31 to help get some bodies in the backcourt. However, he was in health and safety protocols at the time of the trade and hasn’t been cleared yet.

Mobley and Allen are both back in the lineup together after each missing four games. Those two are their best defenders that contribute to the Cavaliers’ third-best Defensive Rating (104.4) in the league, per NBA Advanced Stats.

Kevin Love has caught fire lately. In the month of December, he had a 49.1% 3-point percentage and went 57-for-116 from behind the arc. That is an average of 3.8 3-pointers per game. He may not get as many minutes with Allen and Mobley back in the lineup, but he has been a valuable scoring punch. If he continues to stay hot, the Cavaliers should be able to take care of business.

Pacers-Cavaliers Pick

Since both teams have ailing backcourts, I expect their big men to be featured quite a bit in this game, and thus, I think it will be a slower-paced, low-scoring game.

The Pacers are 21-15 to the under, and the Cavaliers are 22-14 to the under this season. I don’t expect much deviation in Sunday’s game. I make the total in this game 209, and I see some value in the opening total.

Another stat I will add is that the Cavaliers have been amazing at home this season. They are even better in the first half, where they are 15-3 ATS. Despite their injuries, I think they will still take care of business against a struggling Pacers team dealing with their own issues with health and safety protocols. No line is available at the time of this publishing, but I like the Cavaliers first half line at -2 or better.

Finally, take a look at LeVert’s props point totals. He has scored 27 in three consecutive games and will continue to get plenty of usage.

Pick: Under 212.5 (down to 210) | Cavaliers 1st Half Line -2 (or better)