The Brooklyn Nets were on a fantastic roll. They won 12 in a row and 16 of 17. Then Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury.
The Nets were playing very well with Durant and Kyrie Irving each scoring nearly 30 points per game. They were relying heavily on two stars, and now they have to reinvent themselves with one star. Durant will miss at least two weeks.
The Nets get a good test in their post-Durant world when they face the Boston Celtics. Boston is favored by 2.5 points at BetMGM. It's the Nets' first game since Durant's knee injury.
Teams often rally when one of their key players is injured. Perhaps the Nets do that without Durant in the short term, making Boston a risky bet on Thursday night. But it will be hard for the Nets to keep pace in the East over the long term without Durant, who is still one of the NBA's best players at 34 years old.
The key will be getting more scoring out of players like T.J. Warren, Royce O'Neale and Seth Curry. Ben Simmons is a key part of the Nets but his scoring has vanished. Figuring out how to replace Durant's 29.7 points per game will have to be a collaborative effort.
We could also see Irving explode in the next few weeks. He is averaging 26 points and that's with Durant taking 18 shots per game. Keep an eye on Irving props over the next few games because he could decide to put the offense on his shoulders.
The Nets will still be one of the best teams in the East by the playoffs, when Durant is back. It's just hard to say what they'll look like without him.
Here’s the rest of the sports betting slate for Thursday:
More from the NBA
There are six games total in the NBA on Thursday night, including most of the best Eastern Conference teams in action. The Philadelphia 76ers are 10.5-point favorites over an Oklahoma City Thunder team that is 25-16 against the spread despite an 18-23 straight up record. OKC is a good underdog, especially getting double digits. The Milwaukee Bucks, who beat the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, turn around and face the Miami Heat on Thursday. The Heat are favored by 2.5 and that's probably right for a Bucks team that has been up and down without Khris Middleton. And the Cleveland Cavaliers continue their road trip out west. They’re 2.5-point favorites over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Some college hoops too
It’s not the busiest night in college basketball, but there are a few intriguing games. The best might be Gonzaga at BYU. The Cougars are usually tough at home and they’re getting 6.5 points vs. Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have won nine in a row but had close calls on the road against San Francisco and Santa Clara in their last two games.
The rest of the schedule
There’s a little bit for everyone. There are 12 NHL games, including some good matchups. The best could be the Minnesota Wild at the New York Islanders. The Wild are -115 favorites.
There’s an English Premier League match between Fulham and Chelsea, with Chelsea as a -110 favorite on the three-way line. The PGA Tour continues with the Sony Open, and Tom Kim as the favorite at +1100.
What's the best bet?
I'm going to go to the college game and take BYU. Gonzaga hasn't been great on the road lately and BYU is a tough place to play. I'm not sure if the Cougars win straight up but they should keep it close.