Celtics vs. 76ers Odds & Picks: Joel Embiid is Too Much for Boston (Friday, Jan. 22)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers.
- The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers meet again on Friday night after Wednesday's close contest.
- Philly pulled away for a win in the final minutes on Wednesday. Will Friday give us a repeat performance?
- Brandon Anderson previews this Eastern conference matchup and shares his betting pick below.
Celtics vs. 76ers Odds
|Moneyline||+175 / -222|
|Time||7:30 p.m. ET|
We’ve got a good one here as two of the top three teams in the East, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers, meet Friday night after they just played each other on Wednesday. Doc Rivers has the Sixers playing elite defense and leading the Eastern Conference, while the Celtics are fighting to stay afloat despite a litany of injuries and health protocol absences.
This rivalry always gives us a good game, and Wednesday was close until the 76ers pulled away for a win in the final minutes. Will Friday give us a repeat performance?
The Celtics are 8-5 and probably a bit fortunate to sit third in the East standings. The Celtics have gotten just 41 minutes from Kemba Walker all season, who just returned this past week, and Jayson Tatum hasn’t played since Jan. 8 due to COVID.
Tatum is officially out of health protocols now, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll play in this one. Tatum is still in Boston for now working out but could join the team for Friday’s game. It’s reasonable to expect Tatum to play on a pretty strict minutes load if he does suit up. So far this season, that has typically meant around 20 minutes for stars coming back after time away.
Tatum is the Celtics’ best player and a potential MVP candidate, so it would huge to get him back in the lineup. You’ll definitely need to monitor Tatum news closely before playing this one, and we should expect the line to swing either way once we get definitive news.
Walker played 19.6 minutes in his Sunday debut, then 21.7 minutes Wednesday against Philly. It looks like the Celtics will be cautious working him back into the rotation, which makes sense for a small guard on the wrong side of 30.
Walker has scored 28 points combined in two games, but is shooting just 9-of-28 from the field. His 27% rate on 2s and muted free throw rate are particularly concerning, and it doesn’t look like Walker’s explosion or finishing are back yet, though these two games have come against tough defenses.
The Celtics have been relatively average on both offense and defense overall, and have a hard time finding the right balance. Their best role players are strong defenders but offer little on offense. Jaylen Brown has been brilliant, there’s an awful lot on his shoulders right now.
Depth is not as strong for the Celtics this season either and that limited depth has been pushed to its limit with players like Semi Ojeleye, Jeff Teague, Javonte Green, and Grant Williams playing far too many minutes. That quartet played 84 minutes on Wednesday.
If Walker and Tatum could absorb even 25 of those minutes, that can have a huge cascading effect. But it’s anyone’s guess whether those two are ready for a big game like this yet.
The 76ers rank No. 4 in Defensive Efficiency, and the Sixers rank fourth in defensive effective field goal percentage and second in 2-point percentage allowed.
You can put that squarely on the back of Joel Embiid, who is the MVP of the East through this early stretch of the season. Embiid is averaging 26.4 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.4 blocks a night. He’s scoring more efficiently than ever (66% True Shooting), drawing huge number of free throws, including a whopping 21 Wednesday against the Celtics. Rivers has helped put Embiid in much better position to succeed on offense, and it is paying off.
The 76ers leading the East is all the more impressive when you consider how much the they have been missing. Embiid and Shake Milton have missed three games. Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris have missed two. Seth Curry has missed seven and hasn’t seen the floor in two weeks since he contracted the coronavirus.
Everyone will be paying close attention to the Tatum news in this game, but don’t forget about the likely return of Curry. He was cleared to play Wednesday but sat because of conditioning. He’s expected to play Friday, and his shooting has been massive for the Sixers.
The 76ers are 7-0 straight up with Embiid and Curry this season and 5-2 against the spread — they have a +19.1 net rating with the two on the court together. (It helps when Curry is hitting 60% of his 3s thus far for 80% true shooting)
Still, this is Embiid’s team now. Philly’s profile looks a lot like Embiid. The Sixers draw a ton of free throws and still take a lot of 2s, and they’re locking down 2s on the other end and winning with tough, physical defense.
Embiid was a monster on Wednesday, with 42 points on 17-of-21 from the line. Boston simply had no answer, with Daniel Theis, Tristan Thompson, and the gang repeatedly coming up short. If Embiid plays like that, Philly can beat anyone.
With Curry likely back in the lineup, the Sixers are finally close to full strength again, and that’s certainly more than Boston can say, even if both Tatum and Walker suit up for limited minutes in their returns.
Boston hung in there on Wednesday and played the Sixers relatively even, winning the second and third quarters, but the Celtics got huge offensive nights from Marcus Smart and Daniel Theis that they probably can’t rely on again. Smart shot 9-of-13 on 2s, while Theis had a huge night with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Philly survived a quieter night from Ben Simmons and got nothing from Tyrese Maxey. Curry replacing Maxey in the lineup is a huge boon for the starters and also helps Philly’s bench with the talented rookie returning to a more suitable role.
Expect late line movement as we get more news about Tatum and Curry, and there’s always the chance Embiid could sit or see his minutes restricted with Philly playing the first game of a back-to-back here. That makes this unpredictable.
Still, Wednesday’s line offered real value on the Sixers, and the return of Tatum could actually offer even more value since it should move the line Boston’s way. The Celtics have been closer to average than great thus far, and a limited Tatum and Kemba doesn’t change that enough.
Philly’s defense should do a better job, and Boston didn’t magically find an answer to Embiid in its day off. And for this game at least, the return of Curry could help offset a potential Tatum return.
Wednesday played out at slow pace but got some unexpected scoring that artificially boosted the total. That game went over the 220.5 line, and that fact plus the return of Tatum and/or Curry could leave some value on the under here.
In the end, I’m likely going to side with Philly. Even though Boston led and covered most of the way last time, the Sixers won and covered in the end. Curry’s return should only boost them further.
I’ll wait until a few hours before tip before I play this one since there’s so much news in play here. I want to make sure Embiid and Curry are playing before I hop on Philly, and I may get an extra point or two in my favor if there’s favorable Tatum news too.
As long as Embiid is in the lineup as a full go, I’ll play Philadelphia as high as -5.5 and look for the Sixers to sweep this doubleheader.
Pick: 76er -4.5, up to -5.5