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Nets vs. Clippers Preview Article

VirginiaCavs

Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Nets vs. Clippers: NBA Picks and Predictions


Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Clippers
Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN) at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California


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 —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.

Isolation Plays

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.

Clippers Defense

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.

Brooklyn’s Defense

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. 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 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.

The Verdict

Given its star power on offense and its sufficient defense, Brooklyn is criminally underrated by 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.

Best Bet: Nets +6 at -110 with Bookmaker
 

pip2

Well-Known Member
“So while the Clippers are favored by 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.”

You’re probably right. Any of those main 3 Nets guys can put out extraordinary performances when they are motivated. Plus, Harden has gotten his shooting eye calibrated recently, so his 3-pointers have regained their lethalness. But no Durant, if nothing else, must make game planning a little less headachey for the Clippers. And Beverley —who didn’t play in the first matchup in Brooklyn — isn’t such a great talent but he can generally be counted on to make his open 3-pointers and sneak in some occasional floaters in high pressure situations. And he competes with that furious energy that other Clippers don’t usually display. But the Nets might still be the hungrier team at this point since the Clippers just beat the Jazz a couple days ago...
 

VirginiaCavs

Man Crush on Kyle Guy
Now up to +7. I am not getting this. I have been paranoid since I started looking into this game that Beard or Flat Earth is secretly not playing tonight.
 

VirginiaCavs

Man Crush on Kyle Guy
I mean if Brook was +8 at Phoenix without Kyrie and KD then I guess +7 at LAC without KD seems logical. Just doesn‘t make sense to me though
 

pip2

Well-Known Member
I mean if Brook was +8 at Phoenix without Kyrie and KD then I guess +7 at LAC without KD seems logical. Just doesn‘t make sense to me though
I don’t understand how bkn could be accurately capped. There is such a huge difference between how badly they play when they don’t give a crap and how awesome they play when they do give a crap, And yet how could a capper figure out how much the Nets care on any given day?
 
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