Rising young teams in their respective conferences, the 4-7 Brooklyn Nets take on the 6-5 Portland Trail Blazers tonight (10pm ET Friday).
Brooklyn has one of the least talented rosters in the league, but it has gradually added solid players over the last couple of seasons. Considering the squad’s respectable start led by its youth, the future for the Nets isn’t totally hopeless.
The Trail Blazers have dropped a few tight games this season, preventing their record from being even better in the rough-and-tumble Western Conference. Their explosive scoring backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is leading the way, but the defense-first players are also performing admirably in a strong defensive start for Portland.
As the big favorites in this contest, can the Trail Blazers hold off the pesky Nets? This game preview will explore some key things to monitor leading up to and throughout the game. Then we will give betting predictions and picks.
Is Jusuf Nurkic Ready for a Bounce-Back Game?
Nurkic, the Trail Blazers’ starting center, had a rough start to the season. While he averaged 12.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in his first seven contests, he shot a mere 40 percent from the field and committed 3.1 turnovers per game.
He played well in the next three games, with averages of 24 points and eight rebounds. However, his most recent outing was an eight-point, five-rebound dud against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Nets have already set a pattern of defending big men poorly. Notable big games against Brooklyn by post players are Nikola Vucevic (41 points and 12 rebounds), Aaron Gordon (41 points and 14 rebounds), Kristaps Porzingis (30 points and nine rebounds), Brook Lopez (34 points and 10 rebounds) and Nikola Jokic (41 points and 12 rebounds).
That should tell you how bad Brooklyn’s defense near the rim is. Nurkic can put up a huge performance if he brings his A game.
Can the Nets Play Their Fast Pace Responsibly?
Brooklyn plays the fastest pace in the league, at 106.7 possessions per game. Part of that is because of how fast the Nets like to shoot, but it also has something to do with how bad their transition defense is. Other teams often get easy baskets when they push the pace against Brooklyn.
Being a successful uptempo team requires efficient transition offense as well as strong transition defense. If the opponent keeps getting fast-break points, it is hard to quickly get them back going the other way.
The Nets also sabotage their transition opportunities on offense frequently by firing up bad shots early in the shot clock, such as a three-pointer, when there is a potential layup. Head coach Kenny Atkinson needs to stress better shot selection against a more talented Blazers team.
What Sort of Condition Will Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker Be In?
Arguably the two best forwards on the Nets are both questionable to play today, as of last night. Hollis-Jefferson and Trevor Booker are both capable two-way players who stabilize Brooklyn on both ends of the floor.
The prospect of both players being out tonight is definitely a big deal for the Nets. Their potential absences (or minute restrictions, due to injury) would mean more time for Joe Harris and Quincy Acy.
Harris is a great long-distance shooter, but doesn’t provide much value besides that. Acy will play hard-nosed defense, but he’s an offensive negative. Those two are a huge drop-off from Hollis-Jefferson and Booker.
Our Preview’s Brooklyn Nets vs. Portland Trail Blazers Picks & Betting Predictions
The Blazers have played better than their record and the Nets have had an extremely easy early schedule, which makes them worse than their ledger. In Portland, an avalanche of Blazer offense should be expected here to overwhelm the outmatched Nets. The injury statuses of Hollis-Jefferson and Booker don’t help.
- The Blazers are favored by 8.5 points with nearly all betting sites, which isn’t too much given how much better than Brooklyn they are. Take BetOnline’s best odds of Trail Blazers -8.5 @ -105.
- Brooklyn should keep playing a recklessly fast pace, but the Blazers will burn the Nets for doing so. Take the over 222.5 @ -110 with 5Dimes, MyBookie or BetOnline.