Indiana Pacers vs. Atlanta Hawks Pick & Prediction APRIL 14th 2024

The Indiana Pacers will attempt to officially lock down an Eastern Conference playoff berth on Sunday afternoon when they face the Atlanta Hawks in Indianapolis.

Currently sitting in sixth place in the East, Indiana (46-35) enters the regular-season finale holding the last guaranteed playoff spot in the conference.

But unfortunately for the Pacers, they find themselves in a tight race, as the fifth-place Orlando Magic and seventh-place Philadelphia 76ers also sport 46-35 records. Indiana owns the tiebreaker against the Sixers, but it is not as fortunate with the Magic.

Tiebreakers won’t even come into play for Indiana if it goes out and wins on Sunday, as the Pacers would earn a trip to the postseason for the first time since 2020.

Indiana reached the play-in tournament in 2021, but it came up one win shy of the playoffs.

“He likened it to a Game 7,” Pacers guard T.J McConnell said of how coach Rick Carlisle is viewing the meeting with Atlanta. “We win and we’re in. We’ve gotta be prepared, fired up and in front of our crowd, hopefully that will give us an advantage.”

Indiana could have punched its ticket to the playoffs on Friday but a 129-120 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers spoiled that opportunity. Eight players scored in double figures for the Pacers, including Tyrese Haliburton, who finished with 19 points and 12 assists.

However, Haliburton was held in check in the fourth quarter, scoring just three points on 1-of-3 shooting.

“It was a poor last three minutes by me,” Haliburton said. “I gotta be better defensively, executing better offensively. We were right there.”

Meanwhile, the Hawks (36-45) have nothing to worry about in terms of moving up or down in the standings. Atlanta will be heading into the play-in tournament as the No. 10 seed in the East, meaning it will have to win two games in order to reach the playoffs.

The Hawks will visit the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the play-in on Wednesday.

The chief concern for Atlanta is snapping a losing streak that reached five games with Friday’s 109-106 setback against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hawks guard Kobe Bufkin doesn’t think the late-season adversity is all that bad, though.

“Some shots didn’t fall (against Minnesota),” Bufkin said. “But it’s good. It’s good to experience it and learn how to execute.”

Trae Young finished with team highs in points (19) and assists (seven) on Friday in just his second game back from finger surgery.

With Atlanta about to be in do-or-die mode, Young is trying to make sure he is at his best as the Hawks make a push toward their fourth straight playoff berth.

“I felt good,” Young said. “I mean, this is that time of year. We got to be playing up to another level. So I’m just trying to get my wind under me.”

Sunday marks the fourth meeting between the teams this season. Indiana is in position to complete a sweep of the season series, most recently beating Atlanta 126-108 back on Jan. 12.

–Field Level Media

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