76ers vs. Celtics Preview: Lay it With Boston

Action Network betting analyst Kenny Ducey breaks down Monday's NBA clash between the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics.

76ers at Celtics Odds

76ers Odds +3.5
Celtics Odds -3.5
Over/Under 213.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via <!–BetMGM–>BetMGM, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Boston Celtics — like almost every other team in the NBA — enter Monday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers with some COVID-related concerns.

Some key members are out, but with things looking pretty bleak for Philly these days, will health be the most important factor? Let’s break this one down.

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76ers Limping into New Year

It’s hard to find nice things to say about the Sixers right now. They did pull off an unlikely and impressive win against Golden State just over a week ago, but the surrounding games have been nothing short of disappointing.

Philly is now 1-5 against the spread in its last six, and has lost two straight to whimpering opponents. As if losing to an eight-man Nets team leaning on Kessler Edwards for 40+ minutes wasn’t bad enough, the Sixers were then trounced by the Heat in a game which Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro all missed.

Joel Embiid has certainly brought it on the defensive end for the Sixers. Since his return, they’re allowing 109.9 points per 100 possessions, which puts them 11th in the NBA. That’s no surprise when you consult his on/off splits, though.

What is concerning is the other side of the ball; Philadelphia has been the fourth-worst offensive team in those 11 games (albeit one was played without Embiid), scoring just over 105 points per 100 possessions. That puts them just ahead of the Orlando Magic during that period of time.

That’s due in large part to the Sixers’ shooting. While their restricted area field goal percentage has dropped in those 11 games, Philly has hit just 31.5% of its threes, which ranks third-to-last in the league, and it’s taken the third-most mid-range jumpers, which have gone in at a 43.8% clip. It’s on the guards — and Embiid — to shoot the ball better and find high-quality looks.

Celtics Much Better with Brown

Just as things were improving for the Celtics, they took a step back. Josh Richardson is the latest Boston player to enter the league’s health and safety protocols, just days after returning from injury and making an immediate impact. He joins teammates Al Horford, Grant Williams, Juan Hernangomez and Jabari Parker on the list.

On top of all that, Jayson Tatum is listed as questionable for Monday with a left ankle sprain and Dennis Schroder is questionable with a non-COVID illness.

That is a mouthful, and it’s very possible we don’t get a good feel for how Boston will be playing until later in the day on Monday when the status of Tatum and Schroder becomes clear.

In terms of the healthy Celtics, though, they had just begun to find a groove with Jaylen Brown back in the lineup. The Celtics are 2-0-1 against the spread since he was reinstalled into the starting lineup, flaunting a 115.8 offensive rating in the three games.

Overall, the Celtics’ net rating improves by 9.4 points per 100 possessions with Brown on the floor, according to It helps that Boston will have one impact player out there at the very least.

One other negative note I will make here is that the Celtics have allowed a poor 66.5% shooting in the restricted area this year according to, which ranks fifth-worst. They’re also 20th in rebounding rate in the month of December. Boston has had the tendency to struggle with size.

76ers-Celtics Pick

There aren’t very many reasons to take the Sixers here. Even without Richardson and a couple of bigs, the Celtics still have Jaylen Brown and should have Jayson Tatum, which should provide more than enough production on both ends of the floor.

Boston has never really been a great team inside, lacking physicality and rim protection, so I don’t think the absences of Horford and Williams hurt it that much. On the other hand, the Celtics’ strong backcourt defense should really stifle a jumper-happy Sixers team.

I think Boston should win this one convincingly, and I’ll lay up to four points.

Pick: Celtics -3.5 (-110)