Nets vs. Lakers Odds & Picks: Market Not Accounting For Anthony Davis Enough

Nets vs. Lakers Odds & Picks: Market Not Accounting For Anthony Davis Enough article feature image
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Meg Oliphant/Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James

  • The Lakers are a short favorite over the Nets on Thursday night.
  • L.A. will be without Anthony Davis, while Brooklyn won't have Kevin Durant -- but is the market accounting for both players correctly?
  • Get our breakdown and best bet for Lakers vs. Nets below.

Nets vs. Lakers Odds

Nets Odds +2.5
Lakers Odds -2.5
Moneyline +114 / -136
Over/Under 236.5
Time Thursday, 10 p.m. ET
TV TNT
Odds as of Thursday and via DraftKings

In one of the most anticipated matchups of the NBA season, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers host the star-studded Brooklyn Nets on Thursday Night in what could be an NBA Finals preview. Both of these teams come into this matchup red-hot as the Lakers have won eight of their last nine games and the Nets have won four straight.

Unfortunately, injuries damper the excitement of this matchup as the Lakers will be missing Anthony Davis, who is out for the foreseeable future with a Achilles injury and a right calf strain, while the Nets will be without Kevin Durant, who has missed the past two games with mild hamstring strain.

The Lakers moved to 22-7 with Tuesday night’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves while the Brooklyn Nets come off a thrilling 24-point comeback victory against the Phoenix Suns without the services of both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as James Harden led the team with 38 points, 11 assists and seven assists. The Nets will have Irving back for this matchup and oddsmakers have installed the hometown Lakers as 2-point favorites with an total of 237.5.

So where does the betting value lie for this possible NBA Finals preview?

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Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets are the league’s newest super team led by Durant, Irving and Harden. And despite ranking 26th in Defensive Rating (114.5), they currently hold the second best record in the Eastern Conference at 18-12 behind the Philadelphia 76ers. The league is on notice and it’s becoming increasingly clear that when you have the best offense in the league and three scorers in Durant, Harden and Irving, just being passable on defense is enough to make you a contender.

Although this Big 3 has just played seven games together this season, since the Harden trade, the Nets are scoring a league-best 120.9 points per 100 possession. The Nets are also first in eFG%(59.4%) and second in 3-point shooting percentage (41.5%).

Even more impressive is that this Nets team has proven they can do it against the league’s best competition as they are 10-1 against teams above .500 with notable wins over the Bucks, Clippers, Jazz, 76ers, Nuggets, Celtics and Suns. Tuesday night’s win against the Suns on the second night of a back-to-back without Durant and Irving was especially noteworthy as they erased a second half 24-point deficit to defeat the Suns 128-124 in regulation.

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Harden has proven during his time in Houston that he’s a top five offense by himself as long as he has competent shooters around him and Tuesday’s performance was nothing short of that. The Suns are eighth in Defensive Rating, holding teams to just 109.6 points per 100 possessions this season and yet the Nets without two of their stars scored 74 second half points on 1.57 points per 100 possessions against this defense.

For all the criticism of the Nets’ defense this season, mine included, they held the Suns without a basket for the final 2:48 in regulation and a defensive rating of just 106.5 in the second half.

Per Cleaning the Glass, we’re seeing that this defense isn’t as bad as advertised. They’re 11th in shooting accuracy at the rim and ninth in defending the 3-point line while ranking below average in the mid-range, an area where you’d like opposing offenses to score a majority of their points from. Tonight’s starting lineup featuring Irving, Harden, Harris, Brown and Jordan has been solid, holding a Net Rating of +7.5 with an Offensive Rating of 117.7 and a Defensive Rating of 110.2 in six games with 60 minutes of action.

Overall, we know this Nets team can score and if they’re passable on defense, they can beat anyone.

Los Angeles Lakers

With AD’s injury, the stage is set for LeBron James to win his fifth MVP provided that he can carry the Lakers through this tough stretch of games that starts today against the Nets while also facing the Heat, Jazz, Blazers, Warriors and Suns over the next two weeks. The Lakers escaped with a seven-point win and a cover against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday as LeBron scored 30 points, dished out seven assists and grabbed 13 rebounds in 37:53 minutes of action. Nonetheless, there’s lots of concerns for this Lakers team going forward.

If a 36-year-old LeBron James playing nearly 38 minutes in a February game against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves wasn’t problematic enough, the Lakers will of course miss Davis, the anchor of their defense. The Lakers have the league’s top ranked defense, allowing just 106 points per 100 possessions in their non-garbage time minutes while ranking third in eFG% (51.6%).

While the on/off numbers don’t show it, this defense truly takes a hit with AD off the floor. They’ve had some of their worst defensive outings of the season in games against the Bulls and Pistons without Davis as they gave up Offensive ratings of 118.2 and 117.3. They’ve also gone life and death in two games against a depleted Oklahoma City Thunder team and were a fourth quarter collapse from the Timberwolves away from another dog fight on Tuesday night.

The offense also takes a hit without Davis as he’s averaging 22.5 points on 53.3% shooting with 8.4 rebounds and three assists and the Lakers are +6.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on offense. Overall, it’s clear that we’re going to see this Laker team in closer games without Davis and other players will have to step up.

This year’s Laker team feels far more equipped to deal with the loss of Davis than last year’s. Although the Lakers may miss Dwight Howard and Javale McGee come playoff time, Montrezl Harrell and Dennis Schroder give this offense scoring threats they didn’t have last season despite the trade off on the defensive end of the floor. In Tuesday’s game against the Timberwolves Schroder scored 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting while Harrell added 18 points on 5-of-7 from the field.

For regular season basketball, this Laker team is simply a much deeper roster as they have 10 solid rotation players in James, Schroder, Caldwell-Pope, Gasol, Kuzma, Matthews, Harrell, Caruso, Morris and Horton-Tucker. Although the Lakers have been shooting just 31.1% from behind the arc in their last 12 games, this is a much improved 3-point shooting team this season, which they’ll need more of in the absence of Anthony Davis.

Nets-Lakers Pick

In an ideal world, the Nets would have lost Tuesday’s game against the Suns and we’d be getting some extra value on the Nets here. Of course that didn’t happen so we’re looking at a line of Lakers -2.5. My projections with a full-strength Lakers team with Anthony Davis makes this game Lakers -3.5.

If you listened to our Betcast on NBA League Pass on Tuesday, you’ll know that we covered the Lakers/Timberwolves game and I gave out the Lakers -6.5 as it was a buy-low spot as the market pushed them from 8 to 6.5 given the absence of Davis. I felt that Davis was worth as much as three points to the spread and I think similarly here.

While his absence didn’t make much of a difference against the Timberwolves, it will make a difference against a Nets offense that is the best in the league. In today’s NBA, 3-point shooting is everything and unless you can truly overcome it with other factors like points in the paint and gaining extra possessions via rebounding, you’re fighting an uphill battle trading two for three. The Lakers could find themselves doing that tonight.

The Lakers will be facing 48 minutes of a Harden/Kyrie offense and given the drop off of both their offense and defense without Anthony Davis, I don’t like the spot for this team. Keep in mind, this Lakers team held just a two-point lead at 88-86 heading into the fourth quarter and Karl Anthony Towns didn’t re-enter the game until the Lakers held 98-89 lead. At that point, the game was effectively over.

They also struggled with Oklahoma City twice, playing in back-to-back overtime games. LeBron will need an MVP performance in order for this team to keep pace in the Western Conference over the next few weeks, but I’m not seeing it tonight.

The Nets have proven that they get up against superior competition with wins over Bucks, Clippers, Jazz, 76ers, Nuggets, Celtics and Suns. Look for them to pick up the win tonight against the Lakers. I’ll take the points with the Nets and sprinkle a small percentage of my wager on the moneyline.

Pick: Nets +2.5 and moneyline +120 (William Hill)