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The Milwaukee Bucks have been eliminated from the postseason, leaving the door open for the Celtics. As good as the 76ers have been this season, the world has already granted the Celtics the Eastern Conference, and it shows in the future market. The Celtics are -225 to win the Eastern Conference and +120 to win the NBA Finals.
These lines may be lower than they should be, as anything can happen in the postseason, but the Celtics are the best team remaining. The 76ers will be tasked with pulling off the upset, and this will take heroic performances from players like Joel Embiid and James Harden. The issue is that Embiid will likely miss Game 1 with a knee injury. Let’s break down the best ways to make money on the action.
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The Boston Celtics have owned the Philadelphia 76ers over the years. The duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown seem to step up against this team, and the results have been staggering. Tatum is 12-9 against Philadelphia in his career, shooting 42.5% from the field since 2017. Since the beginning of 2022, he is 5-2 against Philadelphia.
Jaylen Brown is 14-11 against Philadelphia in his career with a 44% field goal percentage and hasn’t lost in his past four starts versus the franchise. Tatum and Brown will be the catalysts for Boston in this series, but the team’s strength in numbers makes the Celtics so good. Boston has multiple players that can come off the bench and score, which isn’t something that can be said about Philadelphia.
The 76ers dominated the Nets in their opening playoff series, but this could be their most successful part of the 2023 postseason. With Joel Embiid suffering from a knee injury, this Sixers will struggle to win in Boston during the series' first two games. If they can protect the home court, it would keep the series alive, but Embiid’s status makes this hard to believe. Additionally, the Celtics have been able to dominate in Philadelphia, so it won’t be easy even if Embiid is playing.
The big man will likely miss Game 1, and there is a strong chance he isn’t on the floor for Game 2. This will give Robert Williams and Al Horford an advantage in the paint. Boston wins by shooting three-pointers, and the one area they’re susceptible to problems is down low. Without Embiid, Philadelphia loses the strongest player on their team that can also protect the rim. The Celtics would be heavy favorites if he were on the floor, but Embiid’s status has caused the spread to rise to nearly double digits.
The Celtics revolve around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum is the player who receives most of the credit and for good reason. He is sixth in the NBA in points with 30.1 per game and 23rd in rebounds. However, Tatum’s primary issue is his inconsistency, which we see early in games. He can be one of the slower starters in the league, but he usually locks in down the stretch.
Brown has seemed to be the more steady of the two players. He doesn’t put up the same numbers as Tatum, but he is more efficient from the field. The shooting guard is 9th in the NBA in points at 26.6 per game while shooting 49.1% from the field. This is a remarkable field goal percentage considering he doesn’t play in the paint.
Tatum and Brown work perfectly together because they feed the hot hand. If Tatum isn’t scoring, Brown receives the action, and visa versa. Boston has two legitimate stars and a crop of talent that falls right behind the duo. Malcolm Brogdon, the sixth man of the year, has been instrumental for Boston. This was Brogdon’s first year coming off the bench, and it paid dividends for his career. His elite ability gives Tatum and Brown a break without giving up a lot of talent on the floor. Boston will dominate this matchup if these players come locked into the action during Game 1.
The NBA MVP will be announced on May 2, following Game 1 of this series. The likely winner is Joel Embiid, but he won’t be available for his team when it matters most. The 76ers need Embiid on the floor to be competitive in this series. This isn’t a knock against Philadelphia, but any team without their MVP is going to struggle in the postseason. The same can be said regarding the Bucks, who didn’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without Giannis, Milwaukee was bested by the Heat, who weren’t that strong outside of Jimmy Butler.
Embiid leads the league in points with just over 33 per game. He is also eighth in rebounds with 10.2 per game, shooting nearly 55% from the field. This has been a remarkable season for the center, but if he wants to play meaningful basketball after this series, his team must help.
Tyrese Maxey and James Harden are the two players to watch in this game. They both thrive on the perimeter and have been averaging over 20 points per game in the postseason. The 76ers' best chance in Game 1 is my setting up Maxey on high screens for him to get to the paint, while working in Harden's perimeter shooting ability. However, this is easier said than done against a dominant Celtics team.
The Celtics should walk away with a first-round win over Philadelphia, but the question is which team will cover. Even without Joel Embiid, this is still the NBA, and nine points is a vast spread. Boston has the team to put their opponent away early, but we didn’t see this consistently against Atlanta.
The Celtics allowed Trae Young’s team to stick around, and it caused the series to go seven games. We like Boston to cover the spread, but the better play is the under in this matchup. The 76ers are losing a lot of production without Embiid, and this will keep scoring down. If Tatum starts slow, we could easily see this game going under 214.
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Tanner Kern has been working in the betting industry since 2020. He currently is a social media content creator at DraftKings and contributes to multiple sites in addition to WSN, including Forbes and VSiN. He is also the cohost of the podcast Ride the Line at WSN.More info on Tanner Kern
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