|Time||7 p.m. ET|
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The Golden State Warriors are … flagging, a little bit? They’ve lost three of their last six, and two of their last four, which for them is terrible this season.
The Pacers are … surging, a little bit? They’ve won three in a row, two by double digits over playoff hopefuls.
Steph Curry may or may not be gunning for the record. The Pacers may or may not be looking to make big trades. Let’s break down where the value is on Pacers-Warriors.
Will Curry Suit Up for Warriors?
James Wiseman and Klay Thompson remain out.
Steph Curry is listed as day-to-day on the injury report. Marc Stein reported that Curry is likely to rest in this game. Steve Kerr said Sunday everyone is “good to go,” but the Warriors still may rest Curry.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr says he expects "everybody" to play now Monday at Indiana after Golden State had weighed a night of rest for Stephen Curry before Tuesday's second half of a back-to-back at Madison Square Garden. "But we'll see," Kerr said.
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 12, 2021
If you’re wondering why there are two things at play here:
The Warriors have an advanced training department that keeps track of players and fatigue levels based on not only assessments but biometric data, and there’s every reason to think that Curry is “in the red.” They’ve managed to have great success keeping players out of situations that are high-risk for injury.
The Warriors play the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday on national TV. Curry needs six 3-pointers to set the record for most 3-pointers all-time.
I, personally, love Indiana and the Fieldhouse. However, if you’re an NBA player and you have the option of setting a record on League Pass in Indiana or on TNT in MSG…
So let’s assume Curry doesn’t play.
The Warriors are better on offense than defense this season. They have the best adjusted defensive rating in the NBA. Their switching scheme is back to messing up teams, and their roster flexibility and depth mean there’s not much dropoff when Draymond Green goes to the bench.
Offensively, for sure, the Warriors will miss Curry. Without Curry on the floor this season, the Warriors average 101.2 points per 100 possessions, which is downright awful. Even Jordan Poole, who has been sensational this season, has just a 102 offensive rating with Curry on the bench this season. With Curry on the bench, the Warriors have shot 32% from 3-point range.
However, their defense has been great. They’re allowing less than 99 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the bench. Their best approach in this game is to win an ugly, grind-out game with a big performance from either Poole or Andrew Wiggins on the perimeter to carry them offensively.
One issue the Warriors offense will have in this matchup is the Pacers’ pick-and-roll scheme. The Pacers play at the level of the screen the second-most in the league. Golden State is middle-of-the-pack against that coverage overall. Without Curry, it scores 0.870 points per possession, which would rank last.
This is going to be a struggle for Golden State to score.
Now, if Curry plays, the dynamic obviously changes. But the Pacers will still endeavor to blitz the Warriors and get the ball out of his hands. The Warriors have one of the best counters to this with Draymond Green on the short roll, who can pass to the lob man or a corner shooter. So if Curry plays, the Warriors’ offense may not be as good as it typically is, but it will likely be enough to get the win. The spread also jumps in that situation.
One big prop advantage? If Curry plays, take the Curry assists over and/or Draymond Green’s assist over. Playing at the level opens up the rim and corner threes if you can hit the right triggers. The Warriors have seen the coverage enough to generate those assists.
Defensively, the Warriors should have much more success. Why’s that? Well, let’s talk about the …
Pacers Aren’t Primed to Attack Golden State Weakness
Indiana’s offense is trigger-based. What I mean by that is it doesn’t have elite creators on the perimeter; its best player is Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers are seventh in scoring out of the pick and roll including passes, via Synergy Sports. But they are 21st scoring in isolation. Why does this matter?
The Warriors switch more than any other coverage. Indiana scores 1.0 points per possession (77th percentile) against drop defense. Against switches, the Pacers drop to 0.879 per possession, 37th percentile. They go from a top-end offense to a below-league-average offense vs. switching coverage.
This may open up scoring opportunities for Sabonis on switches, but the Warriors will live with that if Indiana is not able to get its ball movement going.
Indiana’s also not primed to attack the Warriors’ weaknesses. The Pacers rank 27th in points off turnovers per 100 possessions. Turning Golden State’s sloppy, free-flowing offense over is the easiest way to counter it. Indiana is 17th in turnover percentage against pick-and-roll, via Synergy Sports.
Indiana’s shot profile doesn’t help things. The Warriors are dominant in protecting the rim (in part because their switching scheme doesn’t give up anything). Indiana generates a healthy amount at the rim but is 17th in 3-point rate and 24th in 3-point efficiency. Keeping up with a Warriors team averaging 15.1 3-pointers made per 100 possessions (2nd league-wide) creates issues for keeping pace.
I have this projected at 208, a full five points under the total, with both teams at full strength. Wait on the Curry news. If Curry is in, the number will go up and there’s still value on the under based on what Golden State should do defensively. If Curry is out, this is playable to 210.
If Curry is out, there’s no value on the side. The Pacers can absolutely win this game, but the performance of Golden State without Curry this season changes dramatically depending on if it faces a team like Detroit or a team closer to average or better.
If Curry’s in, I’ll play the Warriors. If this number assumes Curry is out, it will likely move to Warriors -6.5 or -7, maybe -8 after the money comes in. If that’s the case, I think this is playable to Warriors -7, but anything beyond that and it’s a no-play. If this number is splitting the difference between Curry in/out — the books sometimes put the number in the middle and let the market decide on the injury status — then there’s still value on the Warriors.
If this number assumes Curry is in and he’s ruled out, I still don’t want to bet the Warriors or Pacers.
Either way, the under and Curry/Draymond assist props are the strongest plays.
Pick: If Curry sits: Under 213.5, playable to 210 | If Curry plays: Wait until line adjusts, still under. Curry/Green assist props over | If Curry plays, Warriors spread to -7.