For the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers, tonight’s play-in game is serious business.
For New Jersey online bettors, it looks like a dress rehearsal for the Nets.
Bettors have overwhelmingly backed the Nets in what they consider a playoff coronation. Yes, if the Nets happen to lose two straight home games this week, their season will be over. But the betting world does not anticipate that.
The Nets are expected to romp their way into the postseason tonight.
Here are five takeaways regarding the last team people pegged for a play-in game when the season started last fall.
Nets Backed By Big Bettors
Only 51% of the wagers are on the Nets at -8.5 versus the Cavaliers at DraftKings. But 68% of the handle is on Brooklyn. That means the big-betting boppers have weighed in solidly behind Brooklyn.
The moneyline tells a similar tale. The Nets are -400. Most gamblers won’t go near that, but 93% of the money has been on the Nets, even with odds that colossal.
Only big gamblers would lay that type of heavy juice, accepting what they consider a small, but guaranteed profit. Maybe a $400,000 wager to profit $100,000 is a good return on investment.
The betting numbers are revealing. They are close to the Harlem Globetrotters vs. Red Klotz.
The over-under of 228 has attracted 70% of the bettors on the over. The Nets have been winning in shootouts rather than low-scoring games, so the combined betting expectations point to a high-scoring game won by the Nets.
The Nets expect to have former Sixer Seth Curry back, for at least a few minutes of playing time. He missed two of the last four games with an ankle injury. He averaged nearly 30 minutes and 15 points per game for the Nets after being traded from the Sixers in the James Harden deal.
Goran Dragic is back from the COVID-19 list. His 7.3 points per game is not too significant, but he may allow Kyrie Irving to take a breather.
NBA Playoff Structure 2022
The Nets are part of a three-step, early playoff process.
They are the No. 7 seed facing the No. 8 seed. The other play-in contest features the No. 9 Atlanta Hawks hosting the No. 10 Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.
If the Nets win, they enter the playoffs as the No. 7 seed and face the red-hot Boston Celtics.
How hot? The Celtics went 26-6 after a 25-25 start. That has kept them under the futures radar with generous returns of +900 to win the NBA title at DraftKings.
If the Nets somehow lose tonight, they host the winner between Charlotte and Atlanta in a win-or-go-game on Friday.
If they then won that game, they would face the No 1. seed Miami Heat.
The first playoff round for the Nets would start on the road in Boston or Miami over the weekend.
For anyone thinking of parlaying the favored Nets at -400 and the Hawks at -190 in the play-in round, the two-team moneyline parlay is -111. That’s not bad.
DraftKings has the Hawks receiving 71% of the spread money at -4.5 and 71% of the moneyline wagering.
Nets’ Keys To Success
This is the game to win with attitude. Teams that make a serious playoff run usually unfurl a statement game to ignite the charge.
If the Nets only squeak past the Cavs, they will raise concerns. If they are the team everyone has believed them to be, they should deliver a rout and maybe win by 15 or more.
The Nets need to display a serious focus. This game will test that.
How the Nets got here
The 3-17 yawn during the season was something unprecedented.
Can you believe that stretch the Nets endured in the midst of trading James Harden, having Kevin Durant injured, and Kyrie Irving unable to play at home because he isn’t vaccinated?
They won three of 20 games, falling below .500. For one small period of time, they were on the outside looking in for the play-in.
That would raise alarms anyplace else. It would cost the coach a job. It might even result in a new general manager.
But in New York, the tabloid-baiting hype capital of America, it meant nothing.
A collective chill marked the unusual descent and the feeling was that when the Nets got their people back, they would restore order.
That sentiment can be understood. If the Nets win tonight and capture one of the first two games in Boston, this regular season never happened. The Nets would have home-court advantage in a playoff series, just as they were expected to before the season started.
NJ sportsbooks also were indifferent to the Nets’ collapse.
DraftKings still lists the Nets as its third most likely team to win the NBA title. The Phoenix Suns are first at +260, while the Milwaukee Bucks come next at +500.
The Nets are third at +600.
Where are the Sixers, who won 51 games this year? They are eighth, at +1400.
At Caesars Sportsbook, the Sixers are in a similar spot. The Nets are a slightly better deal at +650.
BetMGM has an excellent wager calling for bettors to predict the two teams in the NBA Finals. The Nets-Phoenix Suns are +700. Whatever teams a gambler backs, the matchups page is a potpourri of opportunity.
Where’s Ben Simmons?
Here’s another example of patience that is unlikely in New York. Simmons demanded a trade from the Sixers and got it, going to Brooklyn on Feb. 10. The Sixers got James Harden.
Debate swirled over which team got the best of the deal. It’s been two months and it’s still a Harden runaway because Simmons hasn’t played.
Nor has there been anyone on his back to do so.
If he’s ready by the playoffs, the Nets could stand a better chance to go further. The rumblings are that Simmons will play sometime in the Nets-Celtics series if that materializes.
The Nets have struggled to get stops all season, and Simmons is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year runner-up. That could go a long way toward stabilizing the Nets defensively.
But the optimists miss one major point: team chemistry. Throw him in the lineup and does he suddenly fit? That takes time.
Simmons is the “might do” champion of the year, maybe the last several. He made more headlines throughout the season about what he might do over what he actually did.
Either way, Brooklyn rolled the dice in figuring he’d be ready to help the team in the first round. They are one game away from enabling that to happen.
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