As quickly as fans got excited for a premier matchup between the two leading MVP candidates in Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, they’ve been disappointed just as quickly after Embiid was ruled out Monday afternoon.
Coincidentally, this absence comes a mere 18 hours after Embiid staked his claim for the MVP award. Timely…huh…
Even so, we have two of the premier teams in the NBA squaring off in the altitude in Denver with a lot on the line. This should feel like a playoff atmosphere despite Embiid’s absence and I expect the defensive intensity to reflect one. Because of this, there feels to be an edge on the sportsbooks when it comes to the total.
SIXERS VS. NUGGETS BETTING ODDS
Lines and odds accurate at the time of publication
SIXERS VS. NUGGETS BEST BETS
Under 229.5 (-110, FanDuel)
These two teams have squared off once this season back in late January and despite them combining for 245 total points, the implied total of 229.5 points still feels too high, especially with Embiid (who accounted for 47 points in their last game) out.
On the season overall, the Nuggets have been one of the better home defenses in the league, holding a 20-17-0 (54.1%) record to the under at home this season. They should have a much easier time keying in on the Sixers’ offensive threats in this game sans Embiid, as the Sixers see a massive drop in offensive rating (121.2 to 115.2) with Embiid off the floor. It also helps that the Nuggets’ biggest hole defensively (interior against Jokic), is the hole that sees the most relief in Embiid’s absence, as they have capable enough defenders (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Aaron Gordon) to throw at a hobbled James Harden, Tobias Harris, and Tyrese Maxey.
It’s also worth noting that with the absence of Embiid, we’ll likely see the Sixers opt for a more defensive-focused starting lineup, with both De’Anthony Melton and PJ Tucker getting the start. While this is not confirmed, it makes the most sense given the matchup, as they’d use Melton to counter Jamal Murray and Tucker on Jokic. The latter may feel problematic at first glance given the height discrepancy, but Tucker was able to hold Jokic to eight second-half points in their last outing. Any potential increase in minutes for Tucker also caters to the under, as Tucker is far from a prolific offensive player.
With two strong defensive units, a Philly scheme that will attempt to mitigate Jokic’s output, and a missing MVP, there are too many factors working in favor of the under on this total to pass it up.
Risk: 1.1 units on FanDuel to win 1 unit.