After a 5-game extravaganza on Christmas Day, the NBA is back on Wednesday with another 10-game slate. There is no shortage of matchups that provide a good amount of betting intrigue, but my favorite game of the day is what would be an otherwise unremarkable Hornets-Nets showdown tonight in Brooklyn.
If the playoffs were to begin today, Charlotte would be the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference, which would set up a first-round matchup with the third-seeded Indiana Pacers.
The Nets would find themselves just on the outside looking in. Brooklyn is currently ninth in the conference, though they’re just one game back of the No. 8-seeded Pistons.
The Hornets have been up and down, as evidenced by their 5-5 record over their last 10 games.
The Nets have been playing as well as anybody. Brooklyn is 8-2 over their last 10, a string that included a 7-game winning streak that was eventually snapped by Indiana. The Nets then rebounded from the defeat by knocking off the Suns in their last game before Christmas.
The following odds are courtesy of live odds feed:
|2018 ATS Home||10-9-0||8-11-0|
|2018 ATS Away||7-6-0||10-6-0|
|2018 O/U Home||10-9-0||11-8-0|
|2018 O/U Away||7-6-0||6-10-0|
The Hornets 16-16 record on the season is actually good enough to lead the Southeast Division. The Southeast, which has been unquestionably the league’s worst division so far this season, is still a 4-team race as we head into the new year.
Washington, who is currently fourth, is just 4 games behind the Hornets for the top spot, with Miami and Orlando quietly looming.
The biggest story for the Hornets this season has been the play of Kemba Walker. His production has tailed off a little since his blazing start, but the All-Star is still averaging a team-high 24.8 points per game on the season. Walker also leads the Hornets in assists (6.2), and he’s shooting about 43 percent from the field on the year.
Walker is the crux of everything Charlotte wants to do offensively. He has become a viable shooter after starting his career as a total bricklayer, as well.
Kemba has a usage rate of 29.7 percent on the season, which is the ninth-highest mark in the entire league. If Walker is struggling to score, the Hornets are typically struggling to do so, too.
Kemba also leads the Hornets by averaging 34.6 minutes per game. First-year head coach James Borrego shuffles the lineup around him pretty evenly. No other player on the team averages more than Nicolas Batum’s 30.2 minutes on the year.
The No. 2 option behind Walker offensively is Jeremy Lamb. While he hasn’t become a star as many expected after being drafted out of UConn, Lamb has quietly become a solid contributor. Ditto for Cody Zeller, who has made himself into a solid starting center in the league after being a top-5 pick a few seasons ago.
The Hornets haven’t struck gold with the young star they have been seeking for years to pair with Walker, but it’s not a bad roster by any means.
As mentioned in the open, the Nets have been playing as well as anybody. As is the case with the Hornets, the Nets use great guard play to jump-start the offense. Brooklyn has a pair of dynamic guards in D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie that get things going. Dinwiddie leads the Nets with a scoring average of 17.6 points per game, while Russell isn’t far behind at 17.5.
Russell still has some strides to make on the defensive end of the floor, which will occasionally lead head coach Kenny Atkinson to limiting his minutes. Russell has found himself on the bench fairly often in crunch time if Atkinson thinks his defensive effort just isn’t good enough.
Dinwiddie, meanwhile, has parlayed his strong season into a fresh new contract extension. The veteran has proven to be a steadying hand for the Nets on both ends of the floor.
The Nets have been known for their fast pace over the last few years, but so far this season Brooklyn ranks just 23rd in the league in possessions per game. The Nets are also a respectable 15th in offensive rating, averaging 107.9 points per 100 possessions on the campaign.
They have managed to put together this solid run of form despite the fact that their best overall player, Caris LeVert, has been sidelined for quite some time with a leg injury. There’s a chance LeVert returns at some point this season, but the timetable is uncertain
Guys like Joe Harris, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, DeMarre Carroll and rookie Rodions Kurucs have stepped up big time in LeVert’s absence.
Both teams have been middle of the pack in many regards this season. The Nets are 18-17-0 against the spread, while the Hornets are 17-15-0.
The Nets are the team that has been playing better basketball of late, and Charlotte’s heavy reliance on Kemba Walker has me skeptical that they can mount a serious playoff push over the next few months. Having just one player doing so much offensively for your team is a recipe for disaster, especially considering they don’t have a scary No. 2 option.
The Nets don’t have any stars of their own, but general manager Sean Marks has quietly put together a roster of consistent pros. Worker bee types like Dinwiddie and Hollis-Jefferson set the tone, and there are very few games in which Brooklyn will be out-hustled as a result.
The Nets didn’t have big expectations coming into the year, but I’m a believer in what they’re building. I think the 1.5-point spread here is a little too low. Charlotte winning outright wouldn’t be a massive surprise, of course, but I like the Nets to come out on top here.
Give me Brooklyn at home to win this one.
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