On Sunday, Jan. 8, the Brooklyn Nets raised their record to 27-13 with a 102-101 victory over the Miami Heat, despite Kevin Durant leaving early with an injury. They were 1.5 games behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division.
The next day, it was announced Durant would miss time with an MCL sprain in his right knee.
The Nets then proceeded to lose the next four games, to the Celtics, the Thunder (!), the Spurs (!), and the Suns.
Then they got off the schneid, booking wins against the Jazz and Warriors, and then just when it appeared they were righting the ship, they lost a heartbreaker to the 76ers before getting whupped by — of all teams — the Pistons.
The nets really losing to the pistons I am done gambling
— MOOR’E🎲🎲 (@CMOE101) January 27, 2023
As a result, the Nets are now 29-19, five games behind the Celts, with their NBA title odds now +800 at Caesars, FanDuel, and most other sportsbooks, leaving them for tied for third favorite with the Nuggets, behind the Celtics (+400) and the Bucks (+750).
Of course, if the Nets are going to compete for a title, it will certainly help to have Durant back on the court down the stretch along with Kyrie Irving and the third member of the kinda-sorta “big three” in Ben Simmons. (An interesting wager to note: Before the season, FanDuel was offering an over/under wager on the amount of games the three would play together, setting the number at 43.5. To date, they’ve played together in 24 games, and Durant may not come back until after the All-Star break. If that’s the case, there will be 24 games left — including three back-to-back sets. Grab your popcorn!)
Speaking of Durant, he is going to be reassessed in a little under two weeks, but it would seem likely that even if he gets the all clear, the Nets will limit his playing time, especially if they manage to keep their record respectable without him.
Given all the games Durant is missing, his MVP chances may appear all but shot, but consider: If the Nets continue to stink it up while he’s gone, and then let it rip when he comes back, the drumbeat for a Durant MVP vote may pick up. Is he worth a +4200 wager on FanDuel? Well, probably not, but stranger things have happened.
Incredibly strong MVP case for Kevin Durant over the last week.
— DrewDinkmeyer (@DrewDinkmeyer) January 20, 2023
Another spot bettors could consider attacking is the Eastern Conference odds board, where the Nets are third, behind the Celtics and Bucks, but the difference is greater than with the NBA championship odds. For example, the Bucks are +350 at Caesars to win the East, but the Nets can be had for +440 at FanDuel — this, despite some sportsbooks having them as close as +750 and +800 for the NBA title.
One other notable potential wager out there revolves around center Nic Claxton, who is +650 at DraftKings to take home Defensive Player of the Year honors, tied with Brook Lopez and behind Jaren Jackson Jr., who is currently at -220.
The Nets next tip off at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at home against the Knicks, followed by LeBron James and the Lakers coming to town Monday and a trip up to Boston on Wednesday. Not exactly a cakewalk, these three matchups.
Meanwhile, Nets faithful watch and wait for Durant to make his way back to the court. It may have been a long December for the Counting Crows, but the Nets look to be in the middle of a long January — and half of February — without their superstar forward.
Photo: Brad Penner/USA TODAY