Orlando Magic vs. Brooklyn Nets
Time: 8:05 PM ET
Spread: BRK -8
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Brooklyn Nets are fighting for their playoff livelihood tonight. The Nets will need first off a victory over visiting Orlando or a Heat loss to Philadelphia—and a Pacers loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Should the Nets get that perfect storm, it will be the No. 8 seed and have the honor of getting swept by Conference juggernaut Atlanta. Opening odds showed the Nets as 8-point favorites in NBA live lines, and the betting total is set at 203. For instructions on how to bet these odds, see our NBA odds explained.
The Nets have been picking it up in the stretch run of the season and have won six of its past 10 games. Brooklyn is 23-28 against Eastern Conference opponents, but just 18-22 at Barclays Center this year. The visiting Magic are a better road team than home, but that isn’t saying much. Orlando is 13-28 on the road this season and has lost seven of its past 10 games. The Magic sport the fourth worst record and fourth worst differential in the East, but there have been reasons for hope.
Magic fans are banking on both Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton becoming a great tandem in the backcourt. Nikola Vucevic was snubbed of an All-Star appearance and is a versatile center in a league lacking dominant big men.
Tobias Harris is a proficient scorer, but will enter restricted free agency this summer. The remainder of the Magic roster is a mishmash of role players whose talents are less than overwhelming. Rookie big man Dewayne Dedmon has looked promising in stretches and Evan Fournier can find his buckets off the bench, but the remainder of the second unit has brought precious little of value.
The Nets come in with most major rotation players healthy. The rotation was strengthened at the trade deadline by parting ways with forward Kevin Garnett to bring in stretch-4 Thaddeus Young. Young has fit seamlessly into the Nets lineup, averaging 13.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in just under 30 minutes a night.
The Nets get a well balanced contribution from its top eight in the rotation, all options averaging over eight points per game (though Mirza Teletovic is on the shelf). Joe Johnson is still the undisputed leader of the team, and the veteran has averaged 14.4 points per game this season, though his PER has dipped below the league average (14.1). Brook Lopez is hardly a quintessential big man, but his 17.2 points per game can’t be scoffed at even if he is anemic to rebounding.
Lopez leads the Nets in PER (22.7) and puts up his 17 points in just 29 minutes a night. Deron Williams is a shadow of the dominant 20/10 player he was with the Utah Jazz, and he’s nearly impossible to move on a max-contract. He’s seeing 31 minutes a night but producing only 13 points and 6.6 assists per game. Jarrett Jack is equally as important to the rotation, and far less regarded.
Nets big man Mason Plumlee has fallen off in recent games. He was getting major minutes, but over the Nets last 10 games he’s seen just 13 minutes per night and been good for only four points and four rebounds per game. Lopez is clearly the more talented option in the frontcourt, but Plumlee brings a lot of intangibles and hustle, and the Nets will be better off if he can find his way back into the rotation. It’s hard to get minutes distributed fairly with Young and Lopez essentially playing the same position and Plumlee more or less limited to the 5-spot. The Nets are going to be a team in transition with owner Mikhail Prokhorov hell bent on shedding salaries in an attempt to sell the team.
Prokhorov said when he bought the Nets that the team would win a title “within four seasons.” Just about that time has passed, and he’s jumping ship. So much for Russian moguls having any kind of perseverance. In his wake, the Nets will have a big mess to clean up with nasty albatross contracts and a shortage of draft picks, all dealt in acquiring aged Celtics veterans that ultimately produced little more than a mediocre team.
The Nets may have a shot at the postseason with a perfect storm of events, but it’s hard to imagine that it matters much. Atlanta is going to be primed to knock off whichever poor foe ends up in the No. 8 spot, and Brooklyn has only had its stretches of looking anything like a playoff team (a statement which could blanket the majority of the Eastern Conference).