Featured Video from Scott Reichel
The Portland Trail Blazers host the Brooklyn Nets Friday evening in a matchup of two teams with postseason aspirations. The 2019-20 season hasn't gotten off to the start that either Portland or Brooklyn envisioned. The Trail Blazers dropped a surprising contest to the Golden State Warriors earlier in the week before playing the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday night. Brooklyn is in search of its first multiple game winning streak after topping the New Orleans Pelicans 135-125 Monday night.
Both teams are led by elite point guards. Portland's Damian Lillard is averaging over 31 points per game including a season-high 39 against Golden State. Kyrie Irving of Brooklyn is second in the league with 31.7 p/g. Something else Portland and Brooklyn have in common is recent injuries to key big men. Portland lost forward Zach Collins for four months, while Brooklyn center DeAndre Jordan is fortunately only day-to-day after hurting his ankle against the Pelicans.
Nets need defense to step upWith Kevin Durant out recovering from a torn Achilles, the Brooklyn Nets don't have the rocket high expectations of teams like the Lakers and Clippers. Nonetheless, Brooklyn is expected to be competitive this year as they boast one of the best scorers in the NBA in Kyrie Irving and a top center in DeAndre Jordon. So far, the results have been mixed. The Nets have some solid wins against the Knicks and Rockets but also an inexcusable loss to Memphis. Which Brooklyn team will show up Friday?
The Nets are one of the most fun teams in the NBA to follow with their fast-paced play. Irving is liable to go off for over 30 points on any given night. Four other players average in double digits in scoring including 19.4 points per game from shooting guard Caris LeVert. Rebounding is a huge strength for this club, too, although the ankle injury to Jordan could set Brooklyn back some in that category when it faces Portland.
📍 PDX— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) November 7, 2019
A look ahead at our five-game swing 📝
The Nets can score and rebound better than anyone in the NBA not named Milwaukee. Defense is a different story. Brooklyn ranks second in the league in points (121) and boards (49.9) per game but is also fourth to last in points allowed (120.3). For the Nets to become a true playoff contender as the year goes on, they'll need to start buckling down on defense. Brooklyn is solid defending the post but allows opponents to shoot 37.6% from outside.
Portland seeks to get on trackThe Portland Trail Blazers received some truly devastating news earlier this week when they learned that young forward Zach Collins will miss most of the season recovering from a shoulder surgery. The Gonzaga product and fan favorite was on his way to a productive year, averaging nine points and four rebounds.
Portland still has plenty of scoring options, of course. Besides Damian Lillard, four other Trail Blazers average 12 or more points including CJ McCollum's 20.7 ppg. Not many backcourts can contain both Lillard and McCollum, who should be able to score effectively against a Brooklyn defense that is among the league's worst is defending jumpers. Veteran center Hassan Whiteside adds another 14.3 points and 12 rebounds per game.
💪AND 1 💪 pic.twitter.com/P5BWo2psIl— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) November 8, 2019
While Whiteside is a reputable rebounder, the Trail Blazers as a team struggle with collecting boars. Only one other player, Mario Hezonja, averages more than five rebounds per game. That could cause trouble against a post-oriented Nets team. With Collins out, the Trail Blazers will have to get creative with how they guard opposing big men.
- Trail Blazers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games playing on zero days rest.
The supporting trends for this game, found on Covers.com, are:
- Nets are 6-2 ATS in their last eight vs. Western Conference.
- Nets are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games playing on three or more days rest.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
The Brooklyn Nets should cause plenty of trouble for Portland and may even leave with a win. Damian Lillard is usually the top point guard on the court, but he'll have to square off a guy every bit as explosive as him in Kyrie Irving. Those two should effectively cancel each other out. Brooklyn's biggest strength besides shooting is on the glass, where it ranks second in the NBA in rebounds. Portland ranks 20th in that category. The Nets should be able to exploit the Trail Blazers down low and cover if not win outright.
Prediction: Brooklyn Nets
Full-Game Total Pick
Among the true playoff contenders, Brooklyn and Portland have two of the worst defenses when it comes to points allowed. With both teams also possessing an elite scoring point guard, I expect this one to go over. Brooklyn's best defense comes in the paint, so the potential absence of DeAndre Jordan is a concern there. The Trail Blazers, too, are dealing with the ramifications of an injury, albeit one far more serious. With forward Zach Collins out for at least four months, Portland loses one of its top defenders on the wing and post.