The headline coming into this series, one that has been previewed seemingly for weeks and months, looks a lot different now than it did weeks ago with Joel Embiid in danger of missing the series with a knee injury.
At the time of writing, Embiid is listed as doubtful for Monday’s Game 1 and there seems to be serious skepticism surrounding his availability for the series as a whole. Because of this, the Sixers come into Game 1 as massive underdogs, rivaling the lines that we saw in the Hawks series.
While Embiid’s absence will understandably send shockwaves throughout the Sixers brass, we’ve seen this team perform without him in the past and sportsbooks seem to be overreacting to the potential absence.
SIXERS VS. CELTICS BETTING ODDS
|Spread||+9.5 (-106)||-9.5 (-114)|
Lines and Odds are accurate at the time of publication.
SIXERS VS. CELTICS BEST BETS
Sixers +9.5 (-108, FanDuel)
In 16 games without the MVP frontrunner this season, the Sixers have posted an 11-5 record while rattling off some impressive wins, including the Nets (with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant), Raptors, Hawks, and Heat. While none of these teams are the Celtics, it certainly showcases the ability to adjust and adjust well.
Part of that adjustment is the ability for ancillary players to change roles. While operating as a third, or even fourth-option on offense with Embiid active, we see players like Tobias Harris take a massive leap in his absence, as he’s averaged 5.1 more points per game (18.8) with a 23.4% usage rate. Similarly, Tyrese Maxey sees a 5.4% bump in usage rate and averages 28.9 points per game in Embiid’s absence, a jump of over 10 points per game.
This allows James Harden to maintain his role as a playmaker and facilitator while still having multiple scorers alongside him.
The defense is where the Sixers may struggle the most (especially on the interior), but the presence of Jalen McDaniels and De’Anthony Melton on the wing to slow Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown down as much as they can in addition to PJ Tucker doesn’t leave this defense in complete disarray.
Because of the Sixers’ ability to mitigate damage and adjust without Embiid, they’re a great bet to cover the spread here, despite not being confident that they can pull off an outright win. 9.5 points is simply too many for a team with this much all-around talent.
Risk: 1.08 units on FanDuel to win 1 unit.
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