NBA Play-In Tournament: Free NBA Picks Today for Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

NBA Play-In Tournament: Free NBA Picks Today for Tuesday, May 18th, 2021
Tue 18th May 2021

The regular season is over and the Play-In Tournament is here! Our NBA picks have analysed the form, injury reports, previous matchups and more of the Hornets, Pacers, Wizards and Celtics in order to find the two winners of tonight’s games.

Who do we have coming out on top of the two Eastern Conference Play-In games? Read on below to find our NBA picks’ two best bets of the night!

Charlotte Hornets @ Indiana Pacers – 6:30pm ET

The Eastern Conference’s 9v10 Play-In game sees two struggling teams looking to extend their season, by what will likely be just one game. The ninth place Indiana Pacers have injuries wherever you look but get the honours of hosting the Charlotte Hornets, who couldn’t be playing worse right now. 

Charlotte enters the postseason having lost their last five games of the regular season, and while being relatively competitive, they seem to be missing their edge. They seem to be really missing Gordan Hayward, especially in crunch time, but he has already been ruled out for this one. Over that five game stretch, the Pacers have lost to two teams with records below 0.500, with their back court’s struggles being a big reason why.

LaMelo Ball has averaged just 14.4 points per game on 36.5% shooting from the field and 29.2% shooting from deep over that five game stretch. When looking at just the last four games, Terry Rozier’s numbers have dropped to 16.5 points on 35.9% shooting and only connecting on 25% of his triples. That sort of poor play from the Hornets’ starting backcourt doesn’t give them an opportunity to win games, especially if Malcolm Brogdon returns for the Pacers. 

Brogdon is currently listed as questionable after missing the last 10 games with a hamstring complaint. In those 10 games the Pacers went a modest 5-5, however against teams that qualified for the postseason they went just 2-4. On top of that, Domantas Sabonis joins Brogdon on the questionable list for tonight’s game, struggling with a quad injury. After sitting out their second last game, Sabonis returned on Sunday for a monster performance, finishing with 25 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

The lack of support has allowed Caris LeVert to step up massively for Indiana, with the mid-season acquisition scoring at least 25 points in five of his last nine games. On top of that, he has averaged 7.44 assists over that nine game stretch, a massive jump from his season average of just 4.9. 

While Indiana’s ability to finish ninth has earnt them home court advantage for this clash, they are actually a measly 13-23 at home this season. Looking at their last seven home games, they have gone just 2-5 and even lost to the struggling Sacramento Kings during that stretch. To make things worse, they also lost the season series to the Hornets including a home loss back on April 2nd. However, Charlotte hasn’t been faring any better of late, losing two straight and six of their last seven on the road. For the season they were 15-21 when travelling, which is relatively impressive, but their recent form, much like Indiana’s, isn’t inspiring. 

Both of these sides have their issues. Charlotte’s lack of form and Indiana’s lack of health. But with everything on the line in an elimination game, we have to imagine that both Brogdon and Sabonis will both attempt to take the floor to help their team get over the line. Indiana has more postseason experience than the Hornets and even if just one of Brogdon or Sabonis plays, Indiana should have the best player on the court at all times, when you factor in LeVert. 

**Update – Both Brogdon and Sabonis have been cleared to play, however LeVert is OUT due to health and safety protocols. We are still riding with the experienced Pacers at home to get the job done.**

NBA Pick – Indiana Pacers (-118)
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Washington Wizards @ Boston Celtics – 9pm ET

The red-hot Washington Wizards continue their quest to make the postseason in the 7v8 Play-In game against the Boston Celtics tonight. Since turning things around near the beginning of April, the Wizards have gone 17-6 over their last 23 games. Boston on the other hand have limped over the line, going just 2-5 in the seven games since losing Jaylen Brown. 

In those seven games, Jayson Tatum played in six while Kemba Walker played in just four, but their output over that stretch was elite. Walker averaged 29.75 points per game on 50.6% shooting while making 17 threes at a 45.9% rate over his four games. When looking at Tatum’s numbers, if you take out a disastrous nine point on 3/15 shooting night, the two-time All Star averaged 28.8 points on 49.1% shooting in the other five games without his main co-star. 

Tatum has excelled all season and ended up averaging the most fourth quarter points in the league. Despite this, the Celtics were just 17-26, the fourth worst winning percentage in the league, in clutch situations (margin under five points in the last five minutes of the game). While they have battled through injuries, this stat shows that this young Boston team still has a way to go in their basketball maturity, with late game cracks on full show. 

That might be an issue against a Washington side that has both Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook leading the way. The Wizards may have actually thrived in crunch time situations, going 4-1 in games that went to overtime this season, the second best record in the league. What is another intriguing factor is the pace of play that both sides play, with Washington ranking first and the Celtics coming in at just 20th. Given Boston is missing Brown and struggles late in games, the fast pace the Wizards play at might be a determining factor down the stretch. 

The query for the Wizards is the health of Beal coming into the game. After missing three straight with a hamstring strain, Beal was rushed back for their last game of the season in an attempt to help them win and secure the double-chance play-in game that comes with the eight-seed. While Beal scored a game high 25 points in a 115-110 win over Charlotte, he was clearly labouring and not fully recovered, which has now put doubt into his status for tonight’s clash. He is expected to suit up, albeit in limited capacity, but even if he isn’t at his best the Wizards still have Westbrook. The 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists was Westbrook’s 38th triple double this season, from just 65 games. 

If Beal was fully healthy, Washington could easily win this game. His combination with Westbrook would give the Wizards two of the top three players in the game, potentially even the top two. However without him, Washington’s depth issues get exposed. Even with Brown out, the Celtics have the likes of Marcus Smart, Evan Fournier and Tristan Thompson behind Tatum and Walker, all of whom are proven performers. 

Another positive for the Celtics is that Robert Williams, who has played just five games in the last month, is probable to return to the lineup. In the 12 games that he has played since the start of April, in which he has started 10, Boston have gone 9-3. His defensive presence helps protect the rim whilst his rebounding and finishing ability is a big plus, especially for a team with an uncertain frontcourt rotation, like the Wizards. 

Celtics have the experience and the depth to get over the top in this one, despite their poor form heading into the postseason. Washington might be hot, but they are just 2-8 in their last 10 games without Beal. While we expect him to play, he won’t be 100% and Brad Stevens should have plenty of schemes to be able to take advantage of that. 

NBA Pick – Boston Celtics (-130)
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*Odds and spreads correct at time of publication, courtesy of FanDuel

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Tim is a keen follower of all American sports, in particular the NBA and NFL. He has followed both sports for over a decade and would happily sit down and watch every game, regardless of who is playing! No matter the sport, whether it be NFL and NBA or even MLB, NHL, UFC and all sports, Tim covers it from every angle, staying in the loop to bring you the most up-to-date information and the best picks and predictions on the market.