Rockets vs. 76ers Odds & Picks: How to Bet Matchup Given Joel Embiid Uncertainty

Rockets vs. 76ers Odds & Picks: How to Bet Matchup Given Joel Embiid Uncertainty article feature image
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Embiid.

  • The Sixers opened as double-digit favorites for Wednesday night's matchup against the Rockets.
  • There is uncertainty surrounding the status of Philly star Joel Embiid, who was a late scratch on Monday night.
  • Brandon Anderson breaks down how he's looking to bet this game.

Rockets vs. 76ers Odds

Rockets Odds +11 
76ers Odds -11 
Moneyline +460 / -620
Over/Under N/A 
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds as of Tuesday night and via FanDuel.

It’s safe to say ESPN was expecting a bit of a tastier matchup when they scheduled this one.

The Rockets had a nice honeymoon period after trading James Harden, but that six-game winning streak seems long ago now. Houston has now lost six straight and sits dead last in its division at 11-16. It feels like the Rockets may be getting ready for a fire sale if they can’t right the ship in a hurry.

There will be no such selling in Philadelphia, but it’s been a rough stretch for the Sixers nonetheless. They have lost three in a row themselves for the second time this season. Philly is still at the top of the Eastern Conference, but it’s not much reason for celebration at 18-10.

These teams’ current losing streaks add up to nine games, but the best news is that one of them has to win Wednesday night.

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Houston Rockets

There’s not much good news for the Rockets these days. When Houston was on that aforementioned winning streak without Harden, it was easy to dream big. John Wall, Victor Oladipo and DeMarcus Cousins are all former All-Stars, and it looked like Christian Wood was set to join them, in the midst of a breakout campaign.

But Wood’s ankle injury has upset the apple cart. He’s missed six games, and it’s no coincidence the Rockets have lost six in a row without him.

Wood was the best player on this post-Harden team. Those starrier names just haven’t lived up to star billing. Wall and Oladipo keep missing games here and there, and Oladipo hasn’t been great while Wall has been more fine than great himself. Cousins, meanwhile, is lucky to play much more than 20 minutes most nights.

This current skid has been ugly. The Rockets have lost to the Spurs, Hornets, Pelicans, Heat, Knicks and Wizards. There’s no “good” loss on the list, and three of those losses have been by at least 22 points.

The biggest problem is that half of this roster was constructed to play bit roles around Harden, while the other half is made up of leftover parts gathered from trades.

The Rockets are still small and don’t rebound well, and they don’t have many guys who can create their own shot — they never had to with Harden around. Houston’s offense has rated near the bottom of the league without the now-Nets star. The Rockets are taking the third most 3-pointers but rank 27th in 3-point percentage, and they’re turning it over a ton without much quality ball handling.

Houston gave 40 minutes to both David Nwaba and Jae’Sean Tate in its last game, and the bench is getting crushed. Don’t get fooled by some of the names at the top of this roster. There’s just not a ton of talent here.

If Oladipo returns to the lineup, that would help just by letting Eric Gordon, who is doubtful for this game due to a groin injury, thrive in his bench role. Defense continues to be Houston’s calling card post-Harden, but even that looks driven by a good amount of shooting luck.

Houston has a problem — actually, more than just one.

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Philadelphia 76ers

The question is whether Philadelphia has a problem or if this past week was just a blip on the radar.

Coming into the week, Philly’s healthy starting five was unbeaten on the season. Then those five lost to Portland and Phoenix, and the team lost without Joel Embiid despite a monster 42-9-12 line from Ben Simmons.

The Sixers have been a strange team. Only seven of their wins have been by double digits, enough to cover this line, and they have seven double-digit losses too. When Philly has dominated is in the closer games, with the Sixers 10-3 in single-digit games. That’s a bit of a concern, since close games can be prone to luck over time.

The overall Sixers metrics are certainly more good than great. Philadelphia ranks eighth in Net Rating, 13th on Offensive Efficiency and seventh in Defensive Efficiency according to Basketball Reference. That certainly isn’t the profile of a team at the top of a conference, but it’s also not fair because the Sixers have missed so much of their starting lineup this season.

When healthy, Philly has been mostly invincible. It just hasn’t been healthy enough.

Of course, Embiid is the big question mark. He was a late scratch Monday, and Philly fell to 1-5 straight up without him. The big man has had a breakout season and is in the MVP race, and it’s easy to see why when the team is 17-5 with him.

I’m not touching this game, or any Philly game really, until I know whether Embiid is playing. The Sixers are a totally different team without him.

The Sixers lead the league in free-throw rate — that’s thanks to Embiid — and rank in the top three in both steals and blocks, forcing a ton of turnovers but turning it over plenty themselves. Houston’s defensive playmaking and free throws lead to a lot of easy points, and that would be a great way to combat the Rockets’ strengths — but, again, that’s only if Embiid is playing.

Rockets-76ers Pick

I need to see if Embiid is playing before I play this one. With Philadelphia a double-digit favorite, the books certainly expect him out there, but Embiid was cleared to play Monday just hours before the game, before being a late scratch.

Philly has only covered an 11-point spread four times since Jan. 4, and Houston is not as bad as it’s looked lately. The Rockets gamble for turnovers and the Sixers turn it over, so that could be a way for Houston to keep itself in the game and grind.

This is mostly a stay-away game from me because of the unknown surrounding Embiid. Even if he is cleared and starts, you never know when that back may tighten up again and leave him on the sidelines. At this point, I think my best play is a small dice roll on the Rockets moneyline at +460.

It’s not that I think the Rockets are the better team by any stretch, but that line implies an 82% chance of Philly winning the game and I don’t see that. The Sixers are due to lose a close one and if Embiid sits, I’ve got a big margin in my favor. I might take a small shot on Houston, and if the game is close late, I’ll have an opportunity to hedge out with Philly after I see how Embiid and the Sixers are looking.

Pick: Stay away, or small dice roll on Rockets +460 moneyline

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