The Brooklyn Nets face a massive 12-point spread on the NBA odds board for Friday’s road game with the Cleveland Cavaliers. We just saw the Cavaliers beat them by 22 points two weeks ago in Brooklyn.
Jason’s record as of Dec. 17: 19-16-1 ATS, 1-3 Totals
The Brooklyn Nets have a decision to make. They have three options: contend now, build for the future, or do nothing. That last option isn’t very promising. The Nets are 10-14 SU and ATS this year after losing 105-89 Wednesday night to the Toronto Raptors, who paid us off as 12.5-point home favorites. Brooklyn actually played well early, but it didn’t last.
Not surprising, given how thin the bench is these days. Between injuries, illness and maintenance days, the Nets are on the verge of a similar collapse to what we saw last year, before everyone got healthy and they went on a tear. The losing should continue Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET, YES) when Brooklyn visits the Cleveland Cavaliers, who opened as 10-point favorites before moving all the way to –12 on the NBA odds board.
So who’s going to play for Brooklyn Friday night? Kevin Garnett (14.3 PER), still the team’s top defender at plus-2.0 DBPM, was given the night off against Toronto – it was the second of back-to-back games for the Nets. We’ll presumably see The Big Ticket in action. But what about Sergey Karasev (11.5 PER)? He missed the Raptors game with a strained left oblique and is listed as questionable for Friday.
This is not good. We haven’t seen much of Karasev, but he’s a marked improvement over the man who replaced him in the starting lineup, Alan Anderson (7.5 PER). This was after another Euro import, Bojan Bogdanovic (9.3 PER), lost his starting gig to Karasev earlier this month. It’s like shuffling the proverbial deck chairs at this point, but at least Karasev’s chair led the Nets to a 2-2 SU and ATS record.
The Cavaliers (14-10 SU, 9-15 ATS) might not be as desperate as Brooklyn, but they haven’t beaten the basketball odds in five games now. That includes Wednesday’s 127-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks (6.5 away). Atlanta hit 16 of its 28 trey attempts, but the Hawks also dominated the paint, as Al Horford and back-up center Pero Antic combined for 31 points.
Not to beat a dead horse, but the young Cavaliers need to learn how to play some defense. They’re No. 23 in the league in defensive efficiency at 106.1 points allowed per 100 games, wedged between a pair of truly awful teams in Detroit and Charlotte. The Cavs No. 4-ranked offense is making up for it somewhat with 107.9 points per 100 possessions, but covering massive spreads isn’t going to be easy with that defense. Cleveland is 2-4 ATS this year as a double-digit fave.
Royals with Cheese
Good thing it’s only the Nets this time. Brooklyn has enough talent in the starting five to beat lesser opponents; against sub-.500 teams, the Nets are 7-2 ATS. Against winning teams: 3-10 ATS. And whatever defensive issues Cleveland may be having in the paint and at the perimeter are mitigated by the absence of Brook Lopez (17.5 PER) and the potential absence of Karasev.
We’ve already had one look at what this year’s Cavaliers can do to the Nets. On Dec. 8 at the Leaky Center, the Cavs waited out an early Brooklyn surge and pulled away for a 110-88 victory, easily covering the 8-point spread. This was the game that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended. But Joe Johnson (15.5 PER) was out with a stomach virus, leaving both Anderson and Bogdanovich in the starting lineup.
It’s not easy to recommend the Cavaliers as your NBA pick given the way they’ve played in recent games, but we’re going to anyway, because Brooklyn. May the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Cavaliers