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NBA Odds & Picks for 76ers vs. Nets: Back the Home Underdog on Thursday Night (Jan. 7)

NBA Odds & Picks for 76ers vs. Nets: Back the Home Underdog on Thursday Night (Jan. 7) article feature image

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Caris LeVert #22 of the Brooklyn Nets.

  • The Brooklyn Nets will catch the Philadelphia 76ers on the second leg of a back-to-back Thursday.
  • Late injury news is expected to have an impact on this game for 76ers and Nets.
  • Brandon Anderson previews the TNT matchup.

Editors note: Kyrie Irving has been ruled out of Thursday’s game for personal reasons.

76ers vs. Nets Odds

76ers Odds -4 [BET NOW]
Nets Odds +4 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -175 / +143 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 223 [BET NOW]
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of 5:30 p.m. ET Tuesday via Parx, which offers new customers a 20% profit boost + $500 risk-free wager on their first bet AND your bets automatically sync to the Action app. Learn more about BetSync here.

On paper, this looks like an awesome matchup and one that could very well end up being a playoff preview. Unfortunately, the game lost some of its luster when Kevin Durant was placed on the COVID list for the week due to exposure.

And though there’s no concrete news yet, I very much expect Joel Embiid to be a scratch for load management too, even in a national TV spot. He played 37 minutes and often sits out one of the two games in a back-to-back, so I’ll be very surprised if he plays.

Even without Durant, and potentially Embiid, this is still a fun matchup, with Kyrie Irving likely matched up by Ben Simmons and probably the two best teams in the East thus far. So how do we play a game with the biggest stars missing?

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers have the best record in the NBA (7-1) and entering Wednesday’s game, they had the No. 1-ranked defense in the NBA. We’ll see how that holds up after giving up 136 points in regulation, but it’s clear that the Sixers’ defense is good.

It has even better than it was the past couple season, even after swapping out noted defenders Josh Richardson and Al Horford for shooters like Seth Curry. Danny Green has fit right in defensively, and Simmons and Embiid are All-Defense caliber players.

The 76ers entered Wednesday with the best Defensive Effective Field Goal Percentage allowed in the NBA. They ranked first in both 2-point Field Goal percentage and Field Goal Percentage allowed, with a superb shot profile. The Sixers force a high number of turnovers and are an outstanding rebounding team.

None of this should be surprising for a team with Simmons and Embiid, but it hasn’t always been the case for this roster. Under Doc Rivers, and with this version of the team, the 76ers have been playing defense in a way we’ve long hoped to see.

The offense is still finding its form, though 141 points on Wednesday night certainly help, no matter how poor Washington is defensively. Philly is still turning the ball over too much and still working out the kinks with a new offense and new pieces.

Seth Curry and Tobias Harris have been outstanding thus far, knocking down everything. But make no mistake about it — the Sixers are winning with defense.

Philly’s bench is thin, especially with Furkan Korkmaz and Mike Scott are out. This is also a rough schedule spot for the Sixers. They traveled Wednesday night from Philly to Brooklyn and are on the second night of a back-to-back.

Our NBA Insiders tool shows the Sixers have a huge travel disadvantage here, with 5,467 recent miles traveled to just 955 for Brooklyn. This Philly-to-Brooklyn flight may not have been much, but it all adds up, and this spot would screams schedule loss, especially against a tough opponent.

Brooklyn Nets

If Durant were playing, this would be a pretty easy spot for Philadelphia to just sit Embiid, and maybe Simmons. But this game looks far more winnable without Durant, and against an important East opponent, so does that change things?

Remember, Brooklyn is missing two of its top three players with Spencer Dinwiddie also out. Bench and depth was the strength of the Nets’s team two weeks ago. Right now it’s a question mark.

The season is barely two weeks old, and the Nets have already started 11 different players. In their most recent game, the Nets started Bruce Brown, Taurean Prince, Jeff Green, and Jarrett Allen with Kyrie Irving. They also blew the Jazz off the court and won by 34.

The Nets are 4-4 but rank in the top 10 in both offense and defense and profile more like a 6-2 team, even with the injuries. The defense is probably benefiting from some shooting luck right now but has much better metrics than you think and the offense has been great as expected.

Still, even with all the presumed depth, Brooklyn has been mostly a two-player team thus far (maybe a 2.5-player team if you count Jarrett Allen). Caris LeVert has stunk it up so far. Allen has been very good but struggles with fouls and doesn’t have the heft to defend Embiid without fouling.

The Nets turn the ball over a lot, and rank last in defensive rebounding. If Embiid plays, that’s a serious problem. If he sits, it impacts them a bit less.

76ers-Nets Pick

We probably won’t get a definitive answer on Embiid until sometime Thursday afternoon, and the line will swing quickly once news breaks.

If Embiid does not play, as I suspect, I’m not sure Brooklyn should be a home underdog here. This is a pretty rough scheduling spot for Philly after a lot of recent travel and a full schedule plus a Wednesday night game that literally featured the highest scoring second quarter in NBA history (92 total points).

If Embiid plays, I like Philly at this number. The Sixers would have a massive rebounding advantage, and their defense, combined with Durant’s absence, is more than enough reason to like even a tired 76ers team here.

But without Embiid, everything changes. Respect to Dwight Howard, but Embiid is an MVP candidate right now and the defending champs let Howard walk for a reason. Philadelphia’s big advantages on defense and on the glass are muted without Embiid.

Embiid is the defensive system. It all breaks down without him, and Philadelphia has been anywhere from bad to horrendous in minutes without Embiid over the years. Simmons is typically much worse without him too, especially defensively. Against another opponent, that might fly, but the Nets are a good team even without Durant.

My hunch on Embiid sitting and the worry about Philadelphia fatigue and a bad schedule spot is enough to push me to Brooklyn here. I’ll tread lightly until the Embiid decision is clear, but for now, I’m grabbing the Nets at +EV.

No Embiid would also push the game toward an over. Embiid slows things down and adds defensive heft to the game. Brooklyn has been one of the faster teams in the league, so a fast-paced game makes sense, without Embiid. But I can’t shake the feeling this supposed good matchup could end up with one of these teams laying an egg without their star, and that leaving us short of an over anyway.

I’m placing a small bet on a Nets moneyline at plus odds, then may add to my position if that line is available with Embiid out.

Pick: Nets +100 moneyline

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