Nets vs. 76ers Preview: Back Philly and Embiid at Home

The Nets vs. the 76ers. Two Eastern Conference powerhouses collide Friday night on ESPN. @awang_htx brushes aside their ongoing point guard drama and explains which side you should back.

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Nets vs. 76ers Odds

Nets Odds -3
76ers Odds +3
Over/Under 230
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

This Friday evening, two Eastern Conference powerhouses collide as the Philadelphia 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets in each team’s second game of the season.

Last season, the Sixers and Nets finished as the first and second seed in the Eastern Conference, respectively, and they were on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals.

However, both teams squandered their series’ leads and ended their seasons in disappointment. Both teams are each going through some drama with their respective point guards, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons. Each team has a load of talent but is carrying a lot of baggage going into this season.

Less than one week into the season, the Sixers’ injury report is already in midseason form. Joel Embiid is listed as questionable with right knee soreness. I do not anticipate he will miss a game against such a crucial opponent, but keep your eyes out for any updates by following the @FantasyLabsNBA Twitter account.

Ben Simmons had quite an eventful and dramatic offseason. After his disappearing act in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, he demanded a trade in the offseason. Then, he refused to show up for training camp and arrived shortly before the season started. He was suspended in for the season opener due to conduct detrimental to the team and will not play in Friday’s game.

The Sixers are currently three-point underdogs at home. Below, let’s break down why Embiid’s availability could have a large impact on how this line moves and closes on Friday.

Brooklyn Nets

The NBA schedule makers were not kind to the Nets. They are starting their season with consecutive road games against two of best teams in the NBA.

The Nets looked rusty in their 127-104 loss against the Milwaukee Bucks on opening night. They were no match for the defending champions. Newcomer Patty Mills had a great debut with 21 points on 7-for-7 from behind the 3-point line. However, James Harden went 6-for-16 from the field, and the Nets were out-hustled by the Bucks, who had 21 more field goal attempts (105 vs. 84).

The Nets simply don’t have the defensive personnel to contain Joel Embiid.  Per Advanced Stats, the Nets were 29th in second chance points (15.3) allowed last season. This is an area where a dominant big man like Embiid will exploit. The 76ers were fifth in second chance points (13.9) scored last season. With Embiid manning the middle and newcomer Andre Drummond backing him up, the Nets will get crushed on the boards.

In addition, the NBA will also be implementing rule changes to prevent “non-basketball moves” in an effort to draw fouls. This works to the detriment of Harden, whose crafty game is centered around foul-baiting. I anticipate the referees will continue to set the tone with enforcing the rules, and Harden will struggle as he did in the first game.

Two other strong additions to the Nets’ frontcourt are Paul Millsap and the LaMarcus Aldridge. Millsap is a versatile big man who can provide scoring from inside and out while providing veteran leadership and a defensive presence. LMA is returning to the NBA after briefly retiring due to an irregular heartbeat.

However, they may struggle to integrate several new pieces on offense as they adjust to life without Irving. They will need some time to develop a rhythm and chemistry together.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers started off the season with an easy 20-point victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Joel Embiid only played 25 minutes, which gave the injury-prone big man some much needed rest to maintain his body for the 82-game grind. The 76ers were able to get contributions up and down their roster as four different Sixers contributed over 20 points.

The Sixers are amazing at home. Since the 2016-2017 season, they are an incredible 114-73-2 (61%) against the spread at home, per our Bet Labs tool. They have the best home court advantage in the league and have consistently delivered. For comparison purposes, here were their splits last season:

    • Home:  29-7 record, 22-14 ATS, 48.6% FG%
    • Away: 20-16 record, 16-18-2 ATS, 46.7% FG%

Embiid was playing at an MVP-level last season. Had he not missed so many games (per usual), he would’ve definitely given Nikola Jokic some competition for the MVP award. With Simmons out, the Sixers are now able to play sharpshooting Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey more minutes.

This will really open things up for the offense by spacing the floor and complementing Embiid in the post.  With Embiid’s size advantage, I anticipate that he will spend a lot of time at the line.

The Sixers were ranked second in Defensive Rating (107.0) last season. Simmons’ absence will hurt; however, the Sixers still have another ferocious defender, Matisse Thybulle, whom they can stick on Harden on the perimeter.

Nets-76ers Pick

This will be a fun matchup to look forward to on Friday.  While it is tough to bet against Harden and Durant, I think the Sixers are the right side. They have a better defense and perform well at home.

As of Thursday evening at 11:00 p.m. ET, the Sixers are short home underdogs. The consensus line is +1 on most books, but as high as +3 on FanDuel. If Embiid suits up, I believe the wrong team is favored. Embiid should have a monster game against Brooklyn’s lack of interior presence.

With Embiid, I make the line on this game Sixers -2.5, and I see a nice opportunity to grab them as an underdog or at plus-money on the moneyline.

Pick: Sixers +3 on FanDuel (up to -2 if Embiid plays)