Brooklyn Nets vs. Atlanta Hawks
Friday, December 10, 2021 – 07:30 PM EST at State Farm Arena
The Brooklyn Nets were on a six-game winning streak before they decided to rest some of their Stars against the Houston Rockets. Against Houston, the Nets fell to one of the NBA's hottest teams. The reason they wanted to rest Durant and Aldridge is that Durant is 33 years old and averaging 36.2 minutes per game this year.
During the win streak, he was averaging over 40 minutes per game, which is a lot for a player expected to play deep into the playoffs. The Nets felt they had the luxury to rest their top players facing the Rockets because they know how important this game is tonight against an Eastern Conference rival. This game could dictate which team gets home-court advantage if they do meet in the playoffs.
We cannot talk about the Nets without talking about James Harden. Harden had 16 points and 11 assists in the loss to the Rockets. Harden shot poorly in the game going 4-16 and 3-12 from 3-point range. The Nets will need Harden to return to his MVP-caliber form, especially from a 3-point distance, if they want to make a serious run this season.
The Nets have been encouraged by the return of Nico Claxton to the rotation. Claxton missed multiple games with a severe illness and had to rehab in the G League before he was making his return to the NBA level. Claxton is the most athletic big man that the Nets have. With Claxton in the game, they can play a switch-heavy defense.
The Nets need Claxton to be at his best to be able to employ a variety of defensive strategies. A healthy Claxton gives the Nets plenty of options when trying to decide different defensive schemes to implement in order to stop their opponents.
The Atlanta Hawks are 13-12 on the year and 2-3 in their last five. The Hawks are well-rested, with their last performance being on Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves in which they were able to win 121-110.
Atlanta is dealing with expectations for the first time since they emerged as contenders in the East. While they have struggled initially to manage expectations, as the season continues, I think they will adjust to life as the hunted rather than the hunters.
Atlanta is led by Trae Young but they have put a deep roster around him. The Hawks can score multiple different ways. Unfortunately, 2 of those top options, Bogdan Bogdanovic and De'Andre Hunter will miss the game.
Cam Reddish is a game-time decision with an injured wrist. It is a tribute to the Hawks roster and the depth that the front office has built that they are able to absorb these injuries and still keep winning.
With Bogdanovic and Hunter out, Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari will be called upon to contribute more on offense. Both Huerter and Gallinari are great scorers but can struggle on the defensive end at times.
Huerter is improving and looks to eventually be a good defender. Yet with Gallinari, teams are going to have to accept that he is essentially a one-way player. Regardless, the Hawks have multiple options to score, and with a strong rim protector such as Clint Capela, they can get away with having some weaker players on the perimeter of their defense.
Trae Young vs. James Harden
Kevin Durant is a nightmare matchup for anyone to stop, but both Trae Young and James Harden have shown that they can be slowed down at certain points in the season. Harden is struggling to return to his earlier MVP level form. Young can be bothered by constant double-teams and bigger quicker defenders.
If James Harden has a good night it's really tough to beat the Nets and they should cruise to victory. When Trae Young gets hot, he can will his team to victory over almost any team. So a big night from Young would signal that it is likely that the Hawks will win.
I like Brooklyn to get back to their winning ways against a strong rival. While the Hawks are deeper and have a better bench, the duo of Durant and Harden is a tough task for anyone to match down the stretch.
In a close game, I prefer the strong scoring options that Durant and Harden provide to get key buckets with the game on the line. In what should be a close game, I trust the former MVPs to get the job done. I like Brooklyn to win this game. For your best bets, take the Nets.
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