Nets 2021 Schedule: Top Games, Updated Championship Odds and Predictions

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorFebruary 24, 2021

Brooklyn Nets' James Harden (13) tries to drive past Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons (25) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The Brooklyn Nets' 2020-21 season has featured its ups and downs.

The highlight has been a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers that brought three-time reigning scoring champion James Harden to Brooklyn.

The low light was COVID-19's impact on the Nets, including leading scorer Kevin Durant being pulled from a game twice in the same night because of contact tracing before entering quarantine.

The Nets' offense has been spectacular, with the team averaging 121.2 points per game. The other end has not been as good, with the team holding the No. 26 defensive rating, per NBA.com.

Now the Nets will be looking to win the Eastern Conference for the first time since the 2002-03 season, when they called East Rutherford, New Jersey home.

The second half of the NBA season will begin on March 11 and run through May 16. The play-in tournament will take place from May 18-21, with playoffs starting May 22. Game 7 of the NBA Finals (if necessary) will occur on July 22.

Here's a look at some second-half schedule details from a Nets' perspective as well as predictions on the remainder of the year.


2020-21 Nets Schedule Details

Second-Half Opener: vs. Boston Celtics; March 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET

Championship Odds (FanDuel): +300 (bet $100 to win $300)

Second-Half Schedule: NBA.com


Top Matchups

Philadelphia 76ers (First Matchup: April 14)

The Philadelphia 76ers are the top contender for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed heading into the second half of the year.

In a season where many East teams struggled to find their footing in the first half, the 76ers emerged as the top franchise thanks to a MVP-caliber season from center Joel Embiid, a vastly improved outside shooting team and the continued improvement of two-time All-Star point guard Ben Simmons.

Plus, the 76ers are now led by head coach Doc Rivers, who has won an NBA title and perennially made the playoffs during his stints with the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers.

Philadelphia appears to be one of the most well-rounded teams in the league, one that's capable of dominating everywhere on the court.

The offseason additions of Seth Curry, Danny Green and Tyrese Maxey have significantly helped Philadelphia spread the floor, much like when the team took the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors to the limit in the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals.

On paper, the Nets would appear to have trouble stopping the 76ers' attack. Brooklyn's offense is so powerful that it's good enough to dominate Philly's D, but the 76ers are no slouches on that end, either.

Ultimately, this potential playoff preview is the highlight of the Nets' second-half ledger.


Milwaukee Bucks (First Matchup: May 2)

The Milwaukee Bucks haven't found the same regular-season success as the past two years, and it's highly unlikely we'll see them enter the playoffs with the league's top win-loss record as we did in 2019 and 2020.

But Milwaukee still has back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is tearing up the NBA with 28.6 points, 11.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game.

Khris Middleton is still playing at an All-Star level, and Jrue Holiday has been an excellent addition, complementing the team's two best players with 16.4 points per game. However, Holiday has missed time due to the league's health and safety protocols.

A tough first-half schedule slowed Milwaukee down more than usual, but it picked up the pace heading into the All-Star Break and now sits third in the East with a 19-13 record.

A Bucks-Nets conference semifinal matchup is entirely plausible, and as of now, Milwaukee would appear to have the home-court advantage by virtue of its better win-loss record.

However, the Nets can turn the tide with strong performances against the Bucks, enabling them to control their own destiny down the stretch.


Season Forecast

The Nets' offense is so good with Durant, Harden and Kyrie Irving that they will be able to blow teams out on some nights even if their defense is less than stellar.

The problem is the defense's floor has been revealed, and it can be as bad as allowing 149 regulation points to one of the worst teams in the NBA such as the Washington Wizards.

Brooklyn nearly won that game anyway en route to scoring 146 points, but it doesn't have the luxury of relaxing on defense against the best teams in the East.

The good news is that the East is a mediocre conference at best this year, with X of the league's 15 teams sitting without a winning record going into the second half.

The bad news is that the 76ers and Bucks have two of the game's best players, and both teams rank in the top 10 in net rating.

The state of the defense could hinder the Nets, but it's not impossible to think it could find its stride and roll through the East playoffs en route to an NBA Finals berth. Until then, the guess here is that the Nets finish second behind Philadelphia before payoffs.

Final Record Prediction: 50-22 (No. 2 seed in Eastern Conference)


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