NBA Odds & Picks for Nets vs. Clippers: There’s Value on Brooklyn as Underdogs in Primetime Matchup
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: James Harden.
- The Nets go for a season sweep of the Clippers on Sunday night in Los Angeles on national TV.
- Brooklyn will be without Kevin Durant, but Brandon Anderson thinks it has enough firepower without him.
- Anderson explains why current odds aren't respecting the Nets' other two superstars enough in a must-see matchup.
Nets vs. Clippers Odds
|Moneyline||+190 / -230|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday night and via FanDuel.|
It feels like we’ve been waiting about a year and a half for this matchup, ever since free agency in the summer of 2019.
In June 2019, Kawhi Leonard’s Toronto Raptors outdueled Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors to win an NBA championship. You probably remember. One month later, Leonard was in Los Angeles and Durant was in Brooklyn. Durant was nursing a torn Achilles from those Finals, unable to join Kyrie Irving at all on the court last season, while Leonard recruited Paul George as two new superteams were formed. The James Harden trade this year only heightened the excitement.
Unfortunately, the luster is off this matchup a bit, since ESPN’s Malika Andrews reports that Kevin Durant will miss his fourth straight game. That still leaves Harden and Irving against Leonard and George, and the teams played an entertaining, high-flying matchup earlier this month. All five stars played and each scored at least 23 points. The Nets got the win, 124-120.
Will Los Angeles get revenge on its home court, or will the Nets sweep the season series, even without Durant?
It’s starting to feel like these Nets just might be the team to beat, at least in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn is beginning to look quite fearsome, at least offensively.
Harden has only played 17 games in Brooklyn, Durant 19 and Irving 21. Each has missed a few weeks and with the Nets playing 31 games so far, that means Brooklyn has missed a combined 36 games with its superstar trio. The three have played eight games together, and Brooklyn is 5-3 in them.
But it’s all the more impressive that this team has played so shorthanded for so much of the season and still leads the league in offense. The Nets entered Saturday with the league’s No. 1 ranked Offensive Efficiency at 118.6, according to Basketball Reference.
The Nets ranks No. 1 in effective field goal percentage at 58.9%. That’s … really good. They rank first in the NBA in 2-point percentage and second in 3-point percentage. They are top-10 in the NBA in both free-throw and 3-point attempt rate.
And none of that should come as a surprise to anyone. That’s the sort of thing that happens when you have Durant, Harden and Irving.
Harden has looked like his MVP self since coming to Brooklyn. He’s averaging 24.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 11.7 assists per game, leading the league in assists since the trade.
Harden, not Durant, has been Brooklyn’s best player in this stretch, but Durant and Irving have also been fantastic, of course. Joe Harris actually leads the team in Offensive Rating (130) and True Shooting (70%), knocking down seemingly every open shot.
Ah, defense. That’s the weak spot on this team, of course. The Nets allow far too many shots inside the arc, with no real rim protector in sight and even less size without Durant. It’s fair to note that its defense is more bad than horrible and looks worse because of their fast pace. The Nets are that proverbial team that will give up 130 points because they know they can score 140.
It won’t be easy without Durant, but it’s no death knell either. The Nets are 7-5 without him this season, and two of those wins came before Harden and four more in their four most recent Durant-less games, three of which were by double digits.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have a pair of superstars of their own, and Leonard and George are both finally back after long breaks of their own. The duo missed 10 games combined before returning Friday night to get one of the wins of the season thus far, a four-point victory over the red-hot Jazz.
The Clippers are 6-6 when missing either or both of their stars. They’re 16-3 when both play, though one of those three losses came to these Nets. Both Leonard and George continue to put up absolutely scorching shooting numbers on the season, each threatening the 50/40/90 club, though Leonard’s shooting has fallen a bit in recent weeks.
The Clippers rank second in the NBA in Offensive Efficiency and like Brooklyn, they’re that high without being fully healthy throughout the season. L.A. doesn’t have that third superstar either. Nic Batum has been its third-best player, though Serge Ibaka has provided consistency in the paint and Lou Williams came on with Leonard and George sidelined.
The Clippers rank first in the NBA in both 3-point and free-throw percentage, but they’re not as good inside the arc, ranking closer to league average, and that’s about where they rank on 3-point and free-throw rate too. L.A.’s offense may rank one spot behind Brooklyn’s, but it’s nowhere nearly as efficient.
L.A.’s defense has been better than Brooklyn’s but still not great, rating right around the middle of the league. The Clippers’ defense certainly is not what anyone dreamt of with Leonard and George, but it’s better than it was a year ago with Ibaka replacing Montrezl Harrell. The defense should also be better than its numbers with more time from George, Leonard and Patrick Beverley.
Unlike Brooklyn, the Clippers will be pretty much fully healthy, and a healthy Clippers team has beat almost anyone in its path so far this season … except Brooklyn.
When these teams met early in February, Leonard (33 points) and Irving (39 points, six 3-pointers) were the biggest stars, while Harden added 23 points and 14 assists. Durant actually had a relatively quiet game, with 28 points but nary an assist. Brooklyn didn’t get much from anyone outside its big three, but Los Angeles got a combined 37 points from Batum and Marcus Morris.
And, yet, the Clippers lost.
Now, Durant is out and the Clippers are big favorites, but I’m not sure they should be.
Brooklyn has struggled against the dregs of the league but swept through the league’s finest. The Nets are 10-1 against teams above .500, the only loss coming against the best team in the East (Philadelphia) without two of their three stars.
We all know Brooklyn’s defense is porous, but I’m not sure L.A.’s No. 2 offense is built to take advantage of that. The Clippers score a lot because they make difficult shots, not because they find easy efficient ones. This team still doesn’t have a great lead creator and doesn’t tend to get many easy 2-pointers like Brooklyn tends to give up.
The full-strength Clips have been very impressive, but I can’t talk myself into them at this line against a volatile Nets team that can go nuts at any moment and missing the next.
I’ve typically stayed away from betting on Brooklyn this season because of that. The one place I like them is as underdogs, because Harden and Irving can go off at any time.
That’s the opportunity here, and that’s the angle I’m playing. A +190 moneyline implies that the Clippers would win this game almost two-thirds of the time, and I just don’t trust L.A. to dominate this matchup that often.
Harden and Irving are going to have enough offense to keep the Nets in any matchup, and they’re both good enough to take over late and get the win, like in the last matchup, and like they’ve done in the last four games without Durant.
The Nets are just too talented, even without Durant, to not take a chance on at nearly 2-to-1 odds. I’m playing the plus juice and seeing if the Nets can keep rolling against the best teams in the league.
Pick: Brooklyn +190