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Nets vs. Pelicans Odds, Pick, Prediction: Brooklyn Has the Edge on the Road (January 6)

Action Network contributor Joe Dellera previews how to bet Friday night's matchup between the Nets and Pelicans.

Nets vs. Pelicans Odds

Nets Odds -4
Pelicans Odds +4
Over/Under 230.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Brooklyn Nets head down to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans who are once again without Zion Williamson.

Do the Pelicans have enough firepower without him to keep up with the red-hot Nets or will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving take care of business on the road? Let’s break it down.


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Brooklyn’s Pieces Are Fitting Together … Finally

The Nets have been destroying teams over the past few weeks, and even though they just lost to the Bulls, they had lost just one other game in their previous 17 games.

Over this stretch, the Nets have a Point Differential of +9.0 while scoring 120.4 points per 100 possessions and holding their opponents to just 111.4, per Cleaning the Glass. This team has started to gel and reach the potential everyone felt was there when Durant and Irving first joined forces. For tonight, the Nets may be without TJ Warren (ribs – Questionable) for this contest, but they should have plenty of depth outside of him.

This is an interesting matchup because the Nets rely so heavily on their midrange game, which is atypical for most NBA teams (at least the good ones), but this is a strength of the Pelicans on the defensive side of the ball.

The Nets can do this because they just are elite from midrange with jump shooters like Durant and Irving. They take midrange shots at the fourth-highest rate in the league and shoot an absurd 50.9% from midrange, per Cleaning the Glass. They should continue this excellence even against a Pelicans team that holds their opponents to just 40.2% from midrange, fourth-best in the league.

One of the biggest developments for Brooklyn has been Ben Simmons’ improvement. Not only is he able to switch everything on the defensive side of the ball, but on the offensive side of the ball, he can either engage the offense and draw their coverage to dish to his teammates or if they sag off of him, his confidence is back to drive to the bucket and get a shot.

He is directing traffic on offense and has been a positive contributor. Plus, with his gravity actually being worth something now, it has helped open up the wings for 3s and that is the spot you have to sag on because defenses cannot leave KD or Irving open.


Who Steps Up for Pelicans Without Zion?

The Pelicans received the bad news that Williamson will miss at least the next few weeks with a hamstring injury. Additionally, they will continue to be without Brandon Ingram (toe) while Larry Nance Jr. (Shoulder) and Willy Hernangomez (ankle) are Questionable. Their likely starting lineup will be CJ McCollum, Herb Jones, Naji Marshall, Trey Murphy, Jonas Valanciunas.

The Pelicans have been solid this season even when they haven’t had Williamson. They are 7-2 on the season without him with their losses coming against the Celtics and the Suns. However, he is clearly one of their best players and in a matchup against the surging Nets, his absence will be felt.

Williamson has the highest Usage Rate on the team and is a +6.1 in point differential — that is not easily replaced. While CJ McCollum should assume more of the playmaking duties, the Nets’ defense has been strong enough at this point that I would lay off of his 6.5 assists line.

The player who should assume a much larger role is Naji Marshall. In nine games without Williamson, he has averaged 12.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.9 assists but his last three games have been excellent with averages of 18.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.7 assists. His PRA line was 21.5 last game and that would be a line I’m interested in tonight.

Nets-Pelicans Pick

Generally, the Pelicans have been strong enough without Williamson this season to handle most teams; however, in this matchup, I think they will miss his size. The Nets have the length and defensive versatility to bother the Pelicans while switching everything.

And on the offensive side, the Nets can take advantage of the Pelicans who do a strong job preventing rim attempts but allow more shots further away from the basket. Brooklyn barely attacks the rim, rather they rely on midrange and threes for their offense.

Even on the full-season numbers, the Pelicans and Nets are tied with +4.1 Adjusted Net Ratings, but now the Pelicans are without Zion. The Nets are healthier and stylistically, they have an edge. I grabbed this at -3.5 before it moved, but I like it up to -5.

Pick: Nets -4