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76ers vs. Nets Series Odds & Betting Preview: Picks for Joel Embiid & Co. In NBA Playoffs

76ers vs. Nets Series Odds & Betting Preview: Picks for Joel Embiid & Co. In NBA Playoffs article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Mikal Bridges #1 of the Brooklyn Nets, Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers begin their quest for their first title in 40 years by taking on the team they traded with for James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets. Gone are Ben Simmons, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving; the Nets are a team in transition. Not on the court, but in terms of the roster and the direction of the franchise.

Still, the Sixers need to focus to make short work of Brooklyn who held off Miami to secure the No. 6 seed. There’s some talent on this Nets team. Can they put it together to make anything against the mighty No. 3-seed with the presumptive MVP? Let’s take a look at the 76ers vs. Nets series odds and betting preview.

The Most Important Thing: Joel Embiid

I love the playoffs. The matchups are compelling and complex. Adjustments! Counter-adjustments! Lineup strengths! Taking away what the opponent wants and them fighting to counter with something you don’t want to allow! It should be a chess match.

This series, however, is not a chess match. This isn’t even checkers.

This is whack-a-mole.

I want to credit Nicolas Claxton, who made a case for both Most Improved and Defensive Player of the Year this season, though he’ll win neither. In his matchup with Joel Embiid this season, he held MVP candidate to just 10-of-21 shooting and just four three throws on 69 possessions.

That’s promising!

I just can’t believe that’s how the matchup is going to play out over the course of the series.

Usually, in situations like this, when one team has a massive frontcourt advantage, the other team has what’s called the “Math Problem” advantage: One team has a dominant big man but the other one shoot volume 3s — 2s vs. 3s — and that evens things.

Yeah, no. Since the trading Durant and Irving, the Nets make more 3s than the Sixers do, but not enough. The Nets are eighth in 3-pointers made per 100 possessions at 13.4, the Sixers are 10th at 12.9. That 1.5-point advantage (0.5 x 3) is just not enough to carry the Nets here.

Embiid will dominate and the Nets won’t be able to keep pace. Unless Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn comes up with a flat-out amazing defensive game plan to disrupt Embiid with doubles while not surrendering 3s, this is going to be easy work.

Usually, when facing teams with a big man who can shoot like the Sixers, you can run zone. But an easy zone buster for the 2-3 zone is the big flashing to the middle of the paint for a mid-range jumper. Embiid is 49% this season from mid-range; he’s positively liquid metal there. If you flip it and run a 3-2 zone to keep a defender there to pick up Embiid, he’s either forcing past you on the catch for a foul or he’s finding PJ Tucker, who is smart enough to crash in those situations (as is Tobias Harris).

It’s just a bad matchup for a team that’s had a rough year for a lot of reasons.

The Pendulum: Spencer Dinwiddie

I’ll talk about Tyrese Maxey here in a bit, but the Sixers will feel comfortable using their base coverage here. The Nets have some shooters, but they don’t have a lot of on-ball threats. So in pick-and-roll, Embiid will play drop.

The only way the Nets can make this into a thing is if Dinwiddie tears up that drop coverage where the big in pick-and-roll sinks towards the rim, leaving room in the mid-range for pull-ups and floaters. If Dinwiddie attacks, that’s enough to force Embiid to play up, which starts to open things. Now the corner defenders have to sag to protect the rim against the lob or cutters, and that opens things for shooters.

If Dinwiddie shoots a lot and is inefficient, this might be a sweep. This is a lot to ask of him. But Mikal Bridges probably isn’t there yet (and will generate the toughest perimeter defender matchup), and the Nets don’t really have anyone else apply pressure as a shot creator.

(The Nets should really uncork Cam Thomas in this series — they’re massive underdogs, they’re reconfiguring the team this summer and need to find out if Cam can step up in a playoff series — but they likely will not for a variety of reasons.)

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The Mirage: Brooklyn’s Depth Advantage

Because the Nets have so many wings, there’s an idea that they have a lot of depth and versatility.

But they have a lot of redundancy without versatility. They don’t have bigs, and they don’t really have many point guards. The Sixers actually have a number of options they can go to in this series in the bench lineups to keep things in check.

Tyrese Maxey averaged 20 points on 48-46-100 shooting splits in two games vs. Brooklyn. He should have a great chance to shine in this series. I actually like him at 50-1 to lead the series in scoring, not based on his being better than Embiid, but on the likelihood that Embiid is able to rest in garbage time in a lot of these games.

The Bet: 76ers -2.5 (-150)

I hate how easy this looks. Basketball is random and unpredictable sometimes. Sometimes you can see upsets coming based on matchups, and sometimes, the No. 7 seed Orlando Magic steal Game 1 vs. the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in 2019.

I just can’t get there. The market is also not going to let you find any edge in going harder on the Sixers.

Sixers -2.5 (-150 at DraftKings) is the best bet. That allows for a sweep or in five games. It allows for one random “Oh, hey, good for the Nets” win. It also requires you to believe in James Harden, Doc Rivers, and Embiid to handle business in a playoff series. Bear in mind that this team should have smashed the Raptors last year, and that series went long.

Is this Nets team worse than that Raptors team? Probably. But it’s close.

I don’t think there are many edges to be found here, at least not yet. Let’s see how the first game or two goes and see if maybe there are some things that the Nets are finding that the market doesn’t show, and we can find a way to take a big number on Brooklyn to make it a series.

Otherwise, I think you can focus on player props.

I will be looking for Maxey overs, Claxton unders (foul trouble), and Tobias Harris overs. (Harris averages the third-most points in the paint for the Sixers per game, the Nets are a bottom-five team in points in the paint allowed.)

Should be a quick series. Key word: should.

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