Two powerhouses, the Nets and Clippers, clash in a Sunday night game on ESPN. How should you bet this game? Here’s our NBA pick for this match.
From the perspective of someone who likes watching basketball, i’m not sure that it gets much better than seeing the star-laden Nets and Clippers square off on primetime television. More importantly, top sportsbooks are offering NBA Odds for this game that I can understand, but at the same time truly puzzle me. I think the odds are way off for this game, making it a great betting opportunity.
Brooklyn Nets vs. LA Clippers
Sunday, February 21, 2021 – 08:00 PM EST at STAPLES Center
James Harden’s Role Transformation
Kyrie Irving has relinquished his point guard role to newcomer James Harden. While Irving is occupying more of an off-ball role — akin to the one that he adopted in Cleveland alongside LeBron — Harden is more of a facilitator.
Back in Houston, Harden would basically dribble around and try to execute in isolation, whether that meant driving inside or attempting a jump shot. But as a Net, Harden is performing fewer dribbles per every time that he touches the ball. He’s also statistically less likely to dribble around on his own before attempting a three-pointer. What Harden experiences in Brooklyn is the best of both worlds.
On the one hand, his ability as a facilitator in an offense that also features Irving means that he is accruing a league-leading 11.3 assists per game. That is 1.6 more assists per game than any other player. Harden is a smooth ball-handler who can suck in defenders as he drives inside or otherwise manipulate defenders to get other guys open. He’s controlling the defense and then finding open guys with his vision and passing ability. But Harden is still a top-level scorer. He is still playing in a type of offense that allows for him to do what he did in Houston, to execute in isolation. So he hasn’t completely abandoned the drive inside or the step-back three.
The difference is that he has more options and that he is intelligent about choosing between options on a given possession, namely whether to facilitate or to score on his own. He can still be decisive while dribbling around less. So in fact, Harden still leads the NBA in frequency of isolation plays. When Irving — in addition to the still injured Kevin Durant -- missed Brookyln’s game on February 16 at Phoenix — NBA Oddsmakers overreacted massively.
Brooklyn was an eight-point underdog in that contest. But Harden led his Nets to a straight-up victory with 38 points. He could still count on sharpshooters like Joe Harris and other guys for support. Harden remains among the NBA’s best in PPP (points per possession) in isolation plays. Now he has a teammate in Irving who rivals him in PPP on this play type.
Even without a healthy Durant, the Nets remain successful. They have won and covered the spread in their last five games, the last three without KD. In terms of covering the spread, there have been zero close calls during this positive span. One reason why the Nets aren’t missing Durant is that they still possess centers (or characteristic power forwards who will occupy the center position) who can stretch the floor.
Check out 8:31 in the following video to see what I mean:
At this moment, all five Net players are behind the arc. This floor spacing and stretching the floor draw the opposing center away from the basket. As a result, Harden has plenty of room with which to beat both his man and the opponent’s rim protector to finish at the basket.
Isolation plays are important tonight against a Clipper defense that struggles against this play type. So far, Los Angeles is 0-3 ATS against the four highest ranked teams in PPP in isolation plays. One of those ATS losses came against the Nets. Despite his reputation as a great defender, Kawhi Leonard is struggling especially in isolation. He’s often tasked with guarding the opponent’s best scorer. But he’s allowing the 18th-highest PPP in isolation plays. With Irving and Harden, Brooklyn will possess too much firepower for a vulnerable Clipper defense that has allowed over 110 points in four consecutive games including against the likes of Miami and Cleveland.
During their last three games — against the Suns, Kings, and Lakers -- the Nets have been allowing an average of just one point more per game than the Clippers. Over a more extended period of time, too, the Nets have obtained mediocrity in terms of scoring defense. With your Best Bets, keep in mind that, with their fast pace, they will have to defend more possessions and will give up more points.
This is no longer the team that strictly needs to outscore opponents in order to beat them. So the Nets are showing desire to play defense. They can play defense when they want to.
Mediocrity on defense is fantastic for a Net team that features a historically prolific offense that leads the league in points per game. Brooklyn is particularly motivated to play defense against good teams, most recently holding the defending champion Lakers to under 100 points.
So while the Clippers are favored by NBA Oddsmakers because they are a strong and healthy team, the fact that they are strong helps support a play on the Nets because the Clippers’ strength will further motivate the Nets. As of now, Brooklyn is 10-1 SU against teams above .500. The one exception came against Philadelphia where Brooklyn missed two stars instead of just one.
Given its star power on offense and its sufficient defense, Brooklyn is criminally underrated by NBA Oddsmakers. Brooklyn will outscore a Clipper team that will have the Nets’ full attention while struggling with their proclivity to execute in isolation. For the above reasons, expect Brooklyn’s SU and ATS win streaks to continue. Take the points with your NBA Picks
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.