The Philadelphia 76ers fell asleep at the wheel in the fourth quarter last night, costing bettors a cover after giving up a late 21-2 run that made a laugher much tighter than it should have been down the stretch. However, they put the clamps down and ended up walking out of the Wells Fargo Center with a 123-117 win and sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. Joel Embiid dropped 39 points on 13-of-29 shooting by exploiting a very weak frontcourt, which is something bettors should get used to seeing if these two teams meet in the Eastern Conference Finals in a few months.
Brooklyn covered, but is still just 6-11 ATS in its last 17 games as the constant state of flux of their roster continues to weigh them down. As we approach the postseason, the rumblings of doubt about this team’s ability to put it all together when the postseason begins grow louder, but I still have faith. When the Nets’ Big 3 of James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have played together, Brooklyn outscores opponents by 13.1 points every 100 possessions and their offensive rating of 126.4 is one of the best in the league among qualified lineups. One would assume that Irving does not take personal days once the postseason, but crazier things have happened.
As I write this, news has broken of LaMarcus Aldridge retiring from the NBA due to him dealing with an irregular heartbeat. Aldridge has always been a player I have enjoyed watching and wish him good health going forward. His absence is a blow for Brooklyn, but one that I do not think changes things when it comes to their title chances. The Nets still have a quality small-ball center in Jeff Green and Nic Claxton continues to show positive momentum in his development. It sucks to see such a good player leave the game in the fashion he did, but whatever your assessment was of Brooklyn before this news, it should remain the same.
Updated odds for every game can be found here.
Updated injury reports for every game can be found here.
*Indicates team is on the second leg of a back-to-back.
The Main Event
Milwaukee Bucks* (-6, 228.5) at Atlanta Hawks
Our main event today is kind of a dud because we do not know if Trae Young or Giannis Antetokounmpo are going to participate. Young has been dealing with a calf contusion that has caused him to miss the last two games, while Antetokounmpo has a sore knee and he has been sidelined for five straight games while it heals. Both have been trending in the right direction, so it would be surprising to see both stars miss this contest.
Atlanta won games against Charlotte and Toronto without Young on the floor, thanks to a defense that only allowed 1.079 points per possession. It is not surprising that the Hawks were better defensively without Young, as their defensive efficiency improves by about two points in his minutes on the bench this season. However, their offensive rating plummets by 10.6 points without him, and that is the real test today if he is not on the floor. Against the Bulls or Raptors you can get away with averaging 1.121 points per possession, but the Bucks, even without Giannis, are an effective offensive team that has a 119.8 offensive rating in the last two games without him.