No time to get nervous from playoff pressure. The Brooklyn Nets will be first on stage in the 2019 NBA postseason when they visit the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday afternoon (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET).
Philadelphia is a big favorite to win the series. Sportsbooks have been hesitant to post early numbers because of injury question marks for the Sixers. At full strength (with Jimmy Butler and Joel Embid ready to go), Philadelphia would be about 85-90% to advance. Bettors should expect the favorites to be laying 8-10 points at home, then a smaller number in Brooklyn. If a Sixers’ star sits, those prices will move toward the Nets.
With so few market dynamics to study in the series, let’s cover some key analytics data popular with sharps (professional bettors) from the “Hollinger Stats” page at espn.com.
- Pace: This should be a relatively fast-paced, entertaining series to watch by playoff standards. Philadelphia ranked #8 in the league in pace factor, Brooklyn #10. Both are in the top half of the league, and should help encourage each other to keep things moving. Quants will be watching Over/Unders to see if the market properly catches this angle.
- Offensive efficiency: Big edge to Philadelphia if everyone’s healthy. The Sixers ranked #7 in the NBA this season in offensive points per possession despite dealing with some injuries. Brooklyn, who certainly didn’t enjoy perfect health either, was just below league average at #19.
- Defensive efficiency: A wash. Brooklyn ranked #13, Philadelphia #14. A ranking near league average for the Sixers will likely be a problem in later rounds vs. Eastern elites. Respected money isn’t backing Philadelphia on the championship futures board because of the mix of injury issues and mediocre defense.
- Rebound Rate: This is where Philadelphia is likely to dominate the series if Embid is ready to impose his will. The Sixers ranked #2 this season in percentage of available rebounds grabbed. Brooklyn was near league average again at #14. Combine Brooklyn’s shakier offense with Philadelphia’s stellar rebounding…and it’s a recipe for a one-sided matchup. Those of you just starting to study NBA markets will soon notice that sharps like backing strong rebounding teams at value prices, or with motivational edges in bounce back spots.
- Turnover Avoidance: Not as important as at the college level, because a certain number of miscues can be tolerated as a side effect of positive aggression. Golden State has had some issues in this area, and it’s not slowing the Warriors down much. Both Philadelphia (#23) and Brooklyn (#25) struggle in turnovers per possession, a sloppiness likely hindered by their above average paces.
- Three-Pointers: Both teams shoot 36% from behind the arc. Brooklyn makes a couple more per game because it tries a lot more. This probably won’t be a factor that impacts the series. But the Nets will be capable of winning outright when topping their regular season per-game average of 12.8 makes.