Celtics vs. 76ers Preview: Back Joel Embiid, Philly at Home

Kenny Ducey breaks down Friday's primetime matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers and shares his best bet.

Celtics vs. 76ers Odds

Celtics Odds +3.5
76ers Odds -3.5
Over/Under 212
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Celtics have strung together some good performances and very easily could be coming into this game on Friday night on a seven-game winning streak. The Sixers ironically just had a seven-game winning streak snapped and will look to re-establish themselves as they push toward the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference.

Which team’s success has been more legitimate? Let’s have a look.

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Boston Celtics

The Celtics have gone 5-2, with two losses in one-possession games, as they have nearly won seven straight. One was against the Knicks, where they led by a whopping 25 points before losing, and one was a two-point defeat at the hands of the Spurs, a game where Boston fell behind by 16 in the first quarter and steadily battled back to make it a game.

It’s worth noting that Boston is just 3-4 against the spread in this span and is just 6-6-1 ATS as a road underdog. It also defeated Philly by one back in early December before losing the next meeting by five later in the month in a game where Joel Embiid dropped 41 points.

It seems inevitable that Embiid will go for another big game here given the state of the Celtics’ frontcourt. They’re allowing a gaudy 65.9% shooting inside the restricted area — the sixth-worst mark in the league. They’ve consistently surrendered big games to prolific bigs, and this occasion should be no different.

The Celtics may also be without Marcus Smart, who is questionable once again as he remains in the league’s health and safety protocols.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly is absolutely rolling. Beginning with a 21-point win in Washington on Dec. 26, the team is now 6-2 ATS and 7-1 straight up in the last eight games.

One of the biggest keys Philly’s success has been its defense. Since beginning this 7-1 run, the Sixers rank seventh in the NBA with just 105 points allowed per 100 possessions. Prior to that point, they were all the way down in 19th in Defensive Rating and had struggled mightily when Embiid was out. They’ve not only steadied the ship on defense, but their rebounding has been great over the last seven games as their Rebounding Rate has improved to 51.1%, (10th in the NBA), which had previously sat at 47.6% (29th).

If you don’t get the picture, the Sixers are pretty much doing everything a lot better than they did a couple of weeks ago, and the credit has to go mostly to the health of this team. The Sixers have always had these pieces, but rarely have they shared the floor. Ironically, the team is still missing Danny Green and Shake Milton, but several other key members are back to full strength.

Much of the credit should also go to Embiid, who has averaged 32.1 points on 54.7% shooting during the streak. 44.4% of his points have come in the paint.

Celtics-76ers Pick

Given Embiid’s success in the past against the Celtics and Boston’s continued inability to defend at the rim, it seems like an uphill battle to win this one given Embiid is on a ridiculous tear and is the entire Philly offense.

While the Celtics have played strong defense over the last  two weeks, Philly’s has essentially matched the performance. On top of that, Boston may not have Smart to stop some of the Sixers’ strong backcourt players.

With a clear edge on offense, I think that tips the scales towards Philly at home by quite a few points.

Pick: Sixers -3.5 (-110)