We’ve got a Wednesday night blockbuster in the form of the New Orleans Pelicans (22-28) heading to Brooklyn to face the Nets (35-16). Judging by the 234 totals, we are in for a shootout between two of the NBA’s three most explosive offenses.
Even without James Harden (hamstring), the Nets are sizable betting favorites at 9-points on the spread or -400 on the money line. That is mighty steep, but the Pelicans are dealing with their own injuries and will be undermanned. Brooklyn should win this one despite a big game from Zion Williamson.
New Orleans Pelicans’ Solo Act
Williamson should put up a monster stat line tonight. That’s both a good and bad thing. It’s good since the budding superstar continues to assert his dominance. As a 20-year-old, Williamson is already putting up Shaq-like numbers of 26.5 points on 62.5% shooting.
But it’s bad because the New Orleans Pelicans are still just 21-24 with him in the lineup and because he’s their only consistent scoring threat. Brandon Ingram (foot) is questionable for tonight. If he returns, it’d be his first game this month and he could be a bit rusty.
Ingram can provide an additional 25 points or so. But between Williamson and Ingram, the Pelicans are desperate for their other players to step up.
Lonzo Ball has found his stroke from deep as the team’s leading three-point shooter, but he’s shooting just 42.1% overall. Eric Bledsoe has been nonexistent on offense. If the Pels hope to have a shot at the Nets, these two will have to play above expectations.
Brooklyn Nets: Guess Who’s Back?
Kevin Durant returns to the Brooklyn Nets for the first time since February 13. The former MVP was putting up 29 points and 7.3 boards with a 59.2 effective field goal percent (EFG%). Even if he’s a bit rusty here, he should still be able to put up 20 points. That’s just how good he is.
The Nets were 23-9 without him and 12-7 with him and they’ve been favorites on the NBA betting lines for the most part anyway. But having Durant gives Brooklyn that unstoppable scoring machine in the frontcourt, something they’ve lacked for most of the season.
Losing Harden can hurt the Nets, but they still have Kyrie Irving to threaten from the outside. And within 20-feet of the basket, Durant is virtually unguardable and he still has an array of shooters from G/F Joe Harris (48.4% from three) to F/C Jeff Green (41.8%) to pick from.
On the other end, Durant provides more help on defense. Is he going to shut down Williamson? Unlikely. But Durant has been a stalwart on defense and his length allows him to guard almost any player.
The Pelicans are the antithesis of the NBA today and that’s usually been a bad thing. They allow the most three-pointers in the league and hit the seventh-fewest. It doesn’t matter how many dunks or points in the paint they score when the opponent is lighting them up from deep.
Brooklyn just happens to be one of the NBA’s most prolific three-point shooting teams. Almost every player in Brooklyn is a threat from deep. And now that they have Durant to threaten in the paint to free up their shooters more.
Williamson will likely put up over 24 points and score at will. Ingram will also score a lot. But when it goes beyond each team’s star players, the Nets can run the Pels’ out of the building.
On a side note, you may be tempted to bet the over here as New Orleans and Brooklyn excel in this category. Stay your hand. The Pels have only gone over in 12 of their 23 road games while Brooklyn has only done it in 14 of their 27 home games. And there’s always a chance the stars rest if it’s a blowout.