NBA Playoffs: Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers series preview

May 1, 2023 09:11 AM

Opening Price (via DraftKings): Boston Celtics (-310) Philadelphia 76ers (+250)

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It might have taken Boston longer than most thought to oust Atlanta in the first round, but the Celtics were dealt a favorable hand when Joel Embiid went down with a knee injury. Embiid’s status for the beginning of this series is in question, and it has rightfully caused a massive shift in the odds. This figured to be a difficult series for Philadelphia to begin, and without Embiid it would seem the 76ers are on the verge of a quick exit in the conference semifinals.

Boston’s regular season dominance

The 76ers went 1-3 SU/0-4 ATS in four games against the Celtics this season, and in the lone victory Boston was without both Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams. Even then, Philadelphia needed 52 points on 20-of-23 shooting from Embiid to sneak away with a 103-101 win at home. Boston is uniquely equipped to match up with Philadelphia on both ends of the floor, and that has led to overwhelming success in this series.

First, the Celtics have the bodies to defend Embiid with, even if he returns. Williams and Al Horford are capable enough that Boston will not have to constantly send double-teams at Embiid like Brooklyn did. The 76ers picked apart that scheme by finding the open man, and the result was 17.3 wide-open 3-point attempts per game against the Nets. That will not happen to that degree against the Celtics.

Philadelphia also showed an inability to defend Boston in the regular season. The Celtics averaged 120.8 points per 100 possessions in the three wins it had against the 76ers. It’s a troubling trend, especially once you realize De’Anthony Melton started two of those games, meaning Philadelphia had one of its better defensive lineups on the floor in those contests. If Embiid cannot play for a majority of this series this defense will be at an even bigger disadvantage.

Boston also holds another strong advantage when it comes to shooting. The Celtics took 10.0 more 3-point attempts per game than the 76ers in the regular season, and averaged 3.4 more makes per game. That is a 10.2 point advantage on average in one statistical category alone. That is not to say Boston will have that exact advantage every game, but the simple edge the Celtics give themselves in this series by taking and making more 3-point attempts is massive.

Betting Analysis

Embiid’s injury obviously means there is a massive unknown when it comes to handicapping this series. His status is in doubt for the first game of the series, and there are some who believe he will not play at all. Still, there is the usual nonsense that NBA teams pull when it comes to injury, and he could magically appear for the first game of the series on Monday. So, how do we bet this series with that in mind?

I am of the belief that even if Embiid is on the floor this is a series that could end quickly. The bet that I made was under 5.5 games, but that price has disappeared from the market. One way to get a similar result is to lay 2.5 games with the Celtics. If Embiid misses the first two games of the series as expected this is a series that will be short lived. Even if Embiid returns for the games back in Philadelphia, the Celtics need only a split before closing the series out back in Boston in Game 5.

Bet Recommendation: Celtics -2.5 games (-105)

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