The Philadelphia 76ers are doing their best without point guard Ben Simmons, but they're trailing the Boston Celtics in the opening round of the playoffs ahead of Wednesday's Game 2.
After a 109-101 loss in the series' first entry, coach Brent Brown and Philadelphia have their work cut out. Teams that win the first contest go on to win best-of-seven sets in the NBA at a rate of 78.3%, although it's often the favorites who rally with the benefit of home court, which isn't the case in Orlando's NBA bubble.
In abe Insights' Sixers-Celtics betting preview, you'll find the best odds across all sportsbooks, courtesy of our odds comparison engine, key stats to bear in mind, a breakdown of the main lines and more.
Date: Wednesday, August 19
Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: 76ers 37%; Celtics 64%
Spread: BOS -4.5
Moneyline: PHI +170; BOS -178
Of course, the Sixers are shorthanded after Simmons down the stretch to a partially dislocated kneecap. With a thin backcourt rotation to combat the Celtics' depth on the wing, Simmons' absence looms large for Philadelphia.
It doesn't seem like Kemba Walker's knee is giving him as much trouble as it did during the regular season, but unfortunately, Game 1 saw Boston suffer another injury setback. Gordon Hayward sprained his ankle and will be out for the foreseeable future.
56.1 vs. 55.0: For teams that are often better known as lockdown defenses, the bubble brought about high levels of offensive execution. The first figure is Philly's effective field goal percentage in the last eight regular-season games, good for third in the NBA, with Boston's number ranking a solid eighth.
30.6 vs. 28.0: Another area where Philadelphia had an edge in Orlando down the stretch was the offensive glass. The Sixers were best in the bubble in offensive rebound percentage, although the Celtics weren't a slouch, placing sixth in that time span.
34.0 vs. 35.3: Let's look at the season as a whole here, because it's worth noting Boston ranked second only to Toronto in opponents' 3-point field goal percentage (34%). That latter number is Philly's FG% allowed, which was 13th in the Association.
As dynamic a distributor as Simmons is on offense, his presence is likelier to be missed more on the Sixers' defense. He can guard about any position on the court, and his length at the guard spot gives his counterparts serious trouble.
The good news is Tobias Harris (eight assists in Game 1) is proving to be a good facilitator, while Philly big man Al Horford has always been a capable, underrated and willing passer throughout his career. That duo should help offset the void left by Simmons on offense, but they're still adapting to new roles.
Another player who must step up here is Joel Embiid, who had just one dime in the series opener — and scored zero points after hitting the first bucket in the fourth quarter. Celtics star Jaylen Brown implied that feeding Embiid early led to him wearing down late, which shifted the sixth-seeded Sixers' tactics.
"This is the double-edged sword where you have to figure out what line do you want to walk," said Brown, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst. "This overplaying the volume of just smashmouth, bully-ball post-ups; if you do it all the time it comes with some level of punishment if you're not careful."
Brown represents a big reason why Boston should be OK sans Hayward. He's an elite defensive stopper, and is among two other 20-point scorers the Celtics can turn to, along with Walker and rapidly-ascending forward Jayson Tatum. That type of firepower obviously gives Boston the advantage in terms of athleticism and perimeter scoring.
If Philly is meant to have a chance, it'll be crucial for Embiid, Harris and Horford to space the floor and use size to their advantage in creating matchup problems. The trio combined to miss seven of eight 3-pointers in Game 1. That's not going to get it done in today's NBA during a best-of-seven set.
Since Simmons and Hayward are down, the point total is naturally much lower for this one than other playoff matchups. Although it's an easier bar to clear, expect sportsbooks to see more action on the Under, given the relatively low Game 1 total.
Boston made the Conference Finals two years ago without Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Coach Brad Stevens knows how to adjust to injury adversity, and Tatum and Brown stepped up even then. Thus, expect bets to favor the Celtics' spread and moneyline.
Note: Odds current as of 10:55 a.m. ET on Wednesday, August 19.
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