The Most Important Matchups and Best Bets for Friday’s NBA Slate
Friday’s NBA slate features 10 games to choose from. The action gets underway with two contests at 7 p.m. ET and wraps up with a showdown between the Mavericks and the Jazz at 10 p.m. ET. The Jazz have won nine straight games, so a spot on ESPN will hopefully give them the attention they deserve.
However, the Nets are the most intriguing team on today’s slate. They have struggled a bit since forming the most recent NBA “big three”, and they’ll be without their top superstar tonight in Kevin Durant. Does that make the vulnerable vs. the Thunder?
Let’s dive in.
The Nets made a splash move by acquiring James Harden earlier this season, and he joined Durant and Kyrie Irving to form arguably the best three-man core in the league. There were always going to be growing pains while these guys learned to play together, but the results so far have been impressive on the offensive end. They’ve played 124 minutes together, and they’ve averaged 119.2 points per 100 possessions. The Bucks currently lead the league with an average of 118.28 points per 100 possessions, so this team has immense offensive upside once they fully gel.
Of course, offense is just half the game, and the Nets have been a disaster defensively. They rank 24th in defensive efficiency this season, and they’ve been significantly worse with the “big three” on the court. They’ve allowed 117.6 points per 100 possessions in that situation, which basically negates how dominant they’ve been on offense. Teams that win an NBA title typically rank in the top 10 on both sides of the court, so that’s a major concern for the Nets moving forward.
Durant has the best reputation among the Nets’ stars on that side of the ball, and he’s made an impact defensively this season. The Nets have allowed -5.6 fewer points per 100 possessions with Durant on the floor, and opponents have decreased their effective field goal percentage (eFG) by -1.4%. Of course, Durant also remains one of the best offensive players in the league, and the Nets have increased their Net Rating by +18.6 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor this season. That puts him in the 95th percentile for all qualified players per Cleaning the Glass.
That puts the Nets in a delicate spot tonight vs. the Thunder. They should still win this game without Durant – who will get the night off for rest – but the margin could be a bit slimmer than expected. The Nets have played just 28 minutes with Irving and Harden on the floor and Durant off the court this season, and they’ve allowed a whopping 119.0 points per 100 possessions during that time frame. They don’t have a ton of capable replacements for Durant defensively, so Irving and Harden are simply going to have to outscore the Thunder. That’s definitely possible – the Thunder rank 20th in defensive efficiency – but they have a significantly lower floor than usual if their jump shots aren’t falling.
This line has moved from Nets -9.5 to Nets -7.0 with the news of Durant sitting, but I still think that might be too high. I’m willing to roll the dice on the Thunder at anything better than +6.0, and I might take a stab at the over on 229.5 points as well.
We’ve seen some notable line movement for tonight’s contests.
The largest line move involves the Clippers. They went from +4.0 to -5.5 vs. the Magic on FanDuel Sportsbook, which is one of the largest swings we’ve seen all season. Of course, that will happen when Kawhi Leonard and Paul George go from not expected to play to in the lineup.
A more subtle move involves the Nuggets. They’ve gone from -3.5 to -4.5 on the road vs. the Spurs, but that movement has nothing to do with the injury report. It stems from the fact that the Nuggets are a massive sharp target at the moment, garnering 95% of the total spread dollars. The Nuggets have somewhat quietly won five straight games, and the big-money bettors appear to think they can make it six-in-a-row tonight.
BEST BETS FROM THE SPORTSGRID BETTING MODEL