As they were the New Jersey Nets for many years before their shift to Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets are the favorite NBA team in New Jersey. Before you go ahead and plunge all your hard-earned cash on the Nets to take out the NBA Eastern Conference title with 888Sport to potentially challenge the Lakers to win the NBA Championship, hold on a minute.
There is an upstart team in the East that could challenge the Nets and spoil their prospective NBA Finals party. The neighboring Philadelphia 76ers have managed to claw past the Nets and into first place in the East, although it’s tight at the top, very tight.
888Sport’s Odds to Win the NBA Eastern Conference
Brooklyn Nets – +115
Philadelphia 76ers – +550
(Odds current as at 29 March 2021 – subject to change)
However, if Philly have hit first place why are they still at such long odds to win the NBA Eastern Conference and conversely, why are the Nets still such favorites?
How Philly & the Nets match-up
In season 2020/21, the Nets and 76ers have played each other twice, for one win apiece.
On January 8, the Nets dominated the 76ers at home in Brooklyn with a 122-109 victory, whilst on February 7, Philadelphia completed turned the tables on Brooklyn with 124-108 win in the city of brotherly love. Joel Embiid was on fire that night in Philly pouring in a game-high 33 points and fed in assists from Ben Simmons.
For Brooklyn, it is all about the fitness of their stars
However, what speaks volume about the previous games is the missing personnel for Brooklyn.
In both of those games, neither of Brooklyn’s two biggest of their three superstars – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant – were in action. They have both since returned and the Nets have been on fire since. With their best 5 on the floor, even the most parochial of 76ers fans would have to admit the Nets have the best power players at their disposal.
The player differences are reflected in the two team’s offenses. The Nets lead the league is scoring, averaging an impressive 121 points per game. While Philly aren’t in that offensive class, they are not too shabby either, pouring in more than 144 points per game to average ninth in the NBA. Looking back at missing personnel, when all three of the Nets superstars play – Harden, Irving and Durant – the Nets switch it up a notch and average more than 124 points per game.
The Philly edge – Defense
In the defensive categories, the 76ers have a clear edge and play it tight-and-hard, a fact which belies the fast tempo of their games. The quick hands of Simmons, Harris and Curry combine to lift Philly to 4th-ranked team in the league in steals. With Joel Embiid crashing the boards and backed up by taller than average guards, the 76ers lead the league in blocked shots.
With those stats falling heavily in the 76ers favor, any potential match-up between the two teams in the play-offs appears set to be classic clash between strangling defense and high-powered offense.
The Nets have three genuine superstars in the line-up with Durant, Irving and Harden, while the 76ers Joel Embiid is the second favorite with 888Sport to win to NBA MVP at odds of +500 and he is ably supported by Ben Simmons.
Looking at the depth of the two teams, the Nets appear to have a deeper bench to cover any potential loss of their stars to injury, and that stats back that up with the Nets at 1.000 when all three stars start, while the 76ers are only playing at .500 when missing just one of their starting 5.
Who will take it?
While Philly might have the defense to hold the Nets, it’s player depth in that ultimately holds the X-factor for the Nets as they look to win the East and head to the NBA Finals for the first time since the 2002/3 season.