Though it’s not exactly Golden State’s storied “Death Lineup” of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Draymond Green and Kevin Durant (or Harrison Barnes earlier), the Nets’ recent starting lineup has been earning a profit vs. betting markets.
Since Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert coalesced as the starting lineup on Feb. 3, the Nets are 5-2-1 straight up in regulation, having covered all but one point spread after 48 minutes. Backers took a bad beat in overtime in Philadelphia last week then lost to Orlando on Monday, when the bench performed poorly (no negative plus/minuses in the starting lineup).
Entering the week, that quintet had the best net efficiency performance of any NBA five-man group during their time together. Not surprising when you see great efforts vs. playoff bound Toronto (twice) and Philadelphia along with blowouts of Phoenix, Golden State, and Charlotte.
At the end of regulation, the Nets have beaten market expectations by 19¹/₂, 34¹/₂, 5¹/₂, 7¹/₂, 14, 7 and 25 points in game order with that group a starters before Monday’s setback vs. the Magic — who, like the Nets, are trying desperately to avoid a No 8 seed (and a first-round series against the Milwaukee juggernaut).
The NBA world was caught napping when Kyrie Irving left the lineup with an injury. It’s not that Irving is that much worse than other starters. But the team certainly has performed much better without him. Among the reasons:
- Defense: On/off stats show that the Nets are allowing about 106 points per 100 possessions this season when Kyrie is off the floor (according to nba.com) but a woeful 115.2 points when he’s playing. Not only is he known as a disinterested defender, but that lack of effort is a contagion that can spread to teammates who get tired of covering for him. With a new starting lineup, Brooklyn is holding opponents to an average of just 100.4 points in regulation. It’s easier to cover spreads in the modern NBA if opponents struggle to reach 100 points.
- Attitude: New York recently celebrated the eighth anniversary of “Linsanity,” which still resonates despite its short duration. That was a great example of what can happen when a young talent (Jeremy Lin) goes all-out every night to prove he belongs, while facing opponents at three-quarter speed because they’re pacing themselves before the playoffs or tanking for draft position. Right now in Brooklyn, the whole team seems to be playing with that level of intensity. It could become “Win-sanity” if this unheralded group keeps getting results.
Orlando showed up with motivation. Others will too. But, Brooklyn still has a great chance to beat market expectations against coasting contenders or disinterested dregs as long as its first five on the floor remain healthy and emphasize defense.
Handicap the regular season accordingly. Then, be wary of a first-round playoff opponent that comes in focused and at full speed.