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The Eastern Conference Finals are already slated to feature the Bucks and Celtics but don’t count out the Philadelphia 76ers. They’ll open their playoff schedule with the Brooklyn Nets to decide who advances to face the winner of the Celtics vs Hawks series.
The 76ers are heavy favorites in this series, as they haven’t lost to the Nets in 2023. However, in the NBA Playoffs, anything can happen and Brooklyn has been playing solid basketball despite losing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the trade market throughout the season.
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Brooklyn and Philadelphia will battle for the fifth time this season, and the matchup has been dominated by the 76ers. Philadelphia should drop a game or two in this series, but seeing it go seven games would be shocking, as the 76ers are the better team. In the past six games between the two teams, the Nets are just 2-4 against the spread and 1-5 straight up. This isn’t a record that can make us trust Brooklyn in a playoff series. The Sixers have the more physical team that’s also better on the perimeter. Nic Claxton is the player to watch for the Nets in the paint, shooting 70.5% from the field. This is remarkable for the center, but he’ll have to deal with Embiid throughout the series.
Embiid’s defensive talent should neutralize Claxton down in the paint. For the Nets to have success, they must create turnovers on defense and protect the basketball. The Sixers are strong on offense, but teams have been successful against them when they swarm their stars. This may happen for a game or two, but we don’t see it occurring throughout the entire series as Philadelphia will find ways to win.
The Nets, at this point in the season, couldn’t be more different than the team we saw to begin the year. Brooklyn was highlighted by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but these players were traded throughout the season. Durant was sent to the Phoenix Suns, the current favorite in the Western Conference. Irving was shipped to Dallas to join forces with Luka Doncic and the Mavericks.
However, the Nets won that the Irving trade as Dallas didn’t even make the playoffs. The newly shaped Nets have done everything they can with a limited range of talented. This team is scrappy and will battle for 48 minutes, but the star power isn’t there for a deep playoff run. The success of the Nets will largely be determined by Claxton in the paint.
Claxton has played decent against the Sixers in 2023, but he’ll need to be a superstar. Embiid is an MVP candidate, so this will make the Brooklyn big man’s life very difficult as we’ve seen in past matchups. The other player to watch for the Nets is Royce O’Neale, who leads the team in assists with 3.7 per game.
The 76ers are picked third in the Eastern Conference, but they could have success this postseason if a few things go their way. Philadelphia’s winning formula comes down to James Harden on the perimeter. Harden is an elite passer that can shoot a dagger from beyond the arch, but consistency is always an issue in the playoffs.
Harden will take threes consistently in this series, but he needs to knock down his open looks. When he makes his easy shots, the contested baskets become natural. In two games against Brooklyn, he’s shooting 43.8% from three-point range, which is 4.8% higher than his season average at home. This is a good sign heading into the series for Philly bettors.
The other player to note is Embiid, who should dominate in every game. Embiid’s PRA bet has been a consistent winner because he is the do-all player for this team. The big man controls the paint and can knock down open looks without even thinking. His size advantage gives him the ability to play multiple styles, and this leads to bad matchups for the 76ers’ opponents.
It’s never ideal to lay 8.5 points in the NBA, as every player on the court can surprise at any time. However, the best move in this game is to take the Sixers at -8.5. Philadelphia is playing well at the right time, they’re at home, and they have the best player in the matchup on their side. Embiid is a matchup nightmare for the Nets, and this will shine bright throughout the series.
We expect the series to go five games, and the Nets won’t win until they get back to Brooklyn. In four H2H games this season, Philadelphia has covered this spread twice. It may seem tight early, but the 76ers will control the game as it develops and cover the large spread.
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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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