After watching them dismantle an injury-ridden Lakers roster last night, Stephen A. Smith has seen all him needs to deem the Nets his NBA Finals favorite. The often-controversial ESPN host pleaded his case for Brooklyn on Friday’s episode of First Take.
“Last night said to me, they should be the favorites. As far as I’m concerned … the Brooklyn Nets should be the favorites to win the world championship,” Smith said.
“As far as I’m concerned … the Brooklyn Nets should be the favorites to win the world championship.”
— First Take (@FirstTake) February 19, 2021
While there’s no doubt the Brooklyn Nets looked good last night, the Lakers were far from full strength. Missing LA’s last two games with a calf strain, Anthony Davis’ absence has been a significant blow to the team’s production. LeBron James’ 32 points, seven assists and eight rebounds on Thursday weren’t enough without the other half of his superstar duo.
Even without leading-scorer Kevin Durant (out with hamstring sprain), Brooklyn didn’t miss a beat offensively. Solid production from Joe Harris (21 points) and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (15 points) picked up the slack for an uncharacteristically poor performance from Kyrie Irving (16 points, 5 turnovers). James Harden played to his excellent standards, notching 23 points, 11 assists and five rebounds.
The offensive firepower on the Nets’ roster is undeniable. But, there’s been plenty of concern surrounding the team’s defensive prowess. Through 31 games this season, Brooklyn has allowed 120+ points in 16 of them.
That being said, the Nets defense was looking strong last night. Through the first three quarters last night, the typically lackluster defense held the Lakers to just 71 points. 98 points allowed was Brooklyn’s lowest total since they took down the Indiana Pacers 104-94 on Feb. 10.
“You see the effect that Steve Nash and Mike D’Antoni have with their offensive minds coming into play here,” Smith said. “And by the way, the get defensive stops when they need them as well. So I look at all of that, and i’m willing to declare here today — that the Brooklyn Nets should be the favorites to win the championship.”
The other biggest concern with the Nets is their lack of size down low.
Losing Jarrett Allen in the Harden trade earlier this season, Brooklyn is completely void of any rim protecting threat inside. Small ball might work when you’re playing a Lakers squad without their main post threat — but talented big men will likely be a matchup nightmare for the Nets come playoff time.
If Brooklyn can pick up a post player sometime this season, it would be pretty hard to bet against that roster.