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Moore’s Angles: A Smart Bet to Make for James Harden’s Game 5 Return

Moore’s Angles: A Smart Bet to Make for James Harden’s Game 5 Return article feature image

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: James Harden #13 of the Brooklyn Nets.

  • James Harden appears to be making a surprise return ahead of Game 5 of the Bucks vs. Nets series.
  • With Harden in the lineup for Brooklyn, Matt Moore is looking a one very specific bet for Tuesday based on lineups.
  • He discusses that trend and bet below.

Editor’s Note: James Harden has been cleared to play Game 5. For real-time updates to these lineups, check out our Action Labs NBA lineups page.

Just when we thought Kevin Durant would need to go it alone, James Harden is planning to return for the Nets and Brooklyn’s chances of regaining control of the series the Milwaukee Bucks have improved dramatically.

After word spread that Harden would try to play Tuesday (barring any setbacks) the Game 5 line moved from Nets +4 to Nets +2.5.

But there’s a better, more specific spot to bet the Nets.

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In three games of this series, the Nets have outscored the Bucks in the second quarter. For the series, Brooklyn has outscored the Nets by 19 points in the period.

In large part, this is because of how the Nets are able to stagger their star players. The Nets start the second quarter with Durant on the bench, usually bringing him in around the 7-8 minute mark, with Kyrie Irving starting the quarter.

If we expect Harden to slide into Irving’s rotation at point guard, a logical conclusion, then those minutes with Harden on-court and Durant off are crucial.

For the series, the Nets have a +3.9 Net Rating with Durant on-court and a whopping +28.7 net rating with him on the bench. The Bucks have lost those crucial non-Durant minutes by a staggering amount.

The exception, obviously, was Game 4, where the Nets still won the non-Durant minutes, but there were only six of them as Durant played 42 minutes. Even in Game 4, the Nets started the second quarter with Durant on the bench and opened the quarter with an 8-0 run. The Nets trailed by just four points when Irving went down in the second quarter, and that was after a 19-2 Bucks run.

Giannis Antetokounmpo didn’t start the second quarter for the first time this series, and that meant he avoided the minutes facing Nic Claxton. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Nets head coach Steve Nash go to Claxton for more of the second quarter. There’s been a trend for this series towards Antetokounmpo playing better vs. Blake Griffin.

The Bucks were outscored by six points in each of the first two games with Griffin on the floor vs. Giannis, a curious matchup. Griffin has absolutely played him well, but Giannis should have more success over time. The Bucks were only outscored by two with Griffin on-court in Game 3, and then outscored the Nets by 18 in Game 4 and by six with both Griffin and Irving on the floor.

Still, the chess match tilts towards the Nets with Harden back. Harden’s best quarter this season was the second. The Nets outscored their opponents by 14 points in second quarters with Harden on-court this season, much of that without Irving.

This series is in a strange place as far as adjustments and injuries go, it’s an unstable environment. I’m betting Nets -110 at FanDuel to win the second quarter, finding a specific matchup environment the Nets can exploit.

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