Nets slide into second place in NBA Championship odds despite two-game skid
It’s going to take more than two straight losses for bettors to lose faith in the Nets.
Brooklyn has seen its 2021 NBA Championship odds actually improve from +600 on Dec. 25 to +500 on Jan. 4 despite surprising back-to-back defeats to the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards. Steve Nash’s star-studded squad now has the second shortest odds to win the title, trailing only the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
NBA Championship 2020/2021
Mon, August 30 2021, 11:57 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers
Should bettors be concerned about Brooklyn’s mini losing streak? Let’s take a closer look.
What’s behind the Nets’ skid?
After racing out to a 2-0 start, the Nets have now lost four of their last five games, including two in embarrassing fashion. The problem begins on defense, where Brooklyn is giving up 113.4 points per game and ranks 12th in the league in efficiency. Brooklyn’s numbers are even more grisly the closer you look, as the Nets rank 26th or worse in opponent points off turnovers, opponent second chance points, and opponent points in the paints.
Brooklyn’s inability to get stops was especially evident against the Hawks on Dec. 30, when they allowed Atlanta to score 141 points in regulation. The Nets squeaked out a four-point win thanks to monster games from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but allowed the Hawks to shoot 39% from deep and were badly out-rebounded 64-45.
Brooklyn’s lack of depth is concerning
Shoddy defense isn’t Brooklyn’s only pressing concern. The Nets suffered a big setback on Dec. 27, when Spencer Dinwiddie tore his right ACL in a game against the Charlotte Hornets. The 27-year-old point guard emerged as a borderline All-Star last season, and was being counted on heavily to relieve Irving of the burden of being the team’s primary ball-handler and playmaker.
Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a partially torn ACL, per @ShamsCharania. He has a $12.3 million player option next season. Caris LeVert, who has played the “Manu Ginobili” role off the bench according to Steve Nash, is a candidate to replace Dinwiddie as a starter for the Nets. pic.twitter.com/wYghkzevCY— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) December 28, 2020
The Nets have won just once since Dinwiddie went down and Irving, in particular, has felt his absence. "It’s a big blow for us to lose Spence," Irving told reporters. "That’s a huge, huge blow for us. I feel it, and I know other guys feel it, as well. Everyone likes to say this phrase ‘Next Man Up Mentality,’ but it’s hard to do that when we started off kind of the last few months together."
Without Dinwiddie, the Nets have had to turn to Caris LeVert, who’s far more valuable playing off the ball, and Chris Chiozza, whose lack of size and experience make him ill-equipped to carry an offense.
Brooklyn has crumbled in crunch time
The pairing of Irving and Durant was supposed to make Brooklyn unbeatable in crunch time, but the Nets have already lost a pair of close games early in the season.
Brooklyn fell in overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 28, and came up one point short to the Washington Wizards on Jan. 3. Irving and KD both had opportunities against the Wizards, but were unable to convert jumpers on their final possession to seal the win.
The Nets’ two All-Stars remained even-keeled after the loss, insisting they were focused on building chemistry and long-term growth, but some fans may have preferred seeing them visibly disgusted about losing to a clearly inferior opponent.
Lean on the Lakers
There are no sure things in the NBA, but for now the Lakers look like a more worthwhile wager than the Nets. L.A. is 3-0 on the road and appears to have found a bona fide third star in Dennis Schroder. The speedy point guard is averaging 16.3 points, 4.4. rebounds, and 4.9 assists, and has a veteran’s understanding of when to set up his teammates and when to call his own number.
Schroder’s presence has already made thing easier on LeBron James, who has had the luxury of easing into his 18th season without having to be the team’s only facilitator.
Expect the Lakers to continue to rack up wins in the week ahead as they face the Grizzlies, Spurs, and Bulls.