76ers vs. Pistons NBA Odds & Picks: Wait for News on Joel Embiid’s Status (Jan. 25)
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers and Sekou Doumbouya #45 of the Detroit Pistons.
76ers vs. Pistons Odds
|Moneyline||-300 / +240|
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
It’s the best of the East versus the worst when the 12-5 Philadelphia 76ers meet up with the 3-13 Detroit Pistons Monday night. Detroit folks aren’t exactly unfamiliar with a 3-13 team, am I right Lions fans?
These teams just played Saturday night in Detroit and will now meet again. The Pistons hung in tough in that one, even without Blake Griffin. They ultimately fell short but got the cover, as they have often done this season, with the Sixers winning 114-110.
So will Detroit push Philadelphia again in the rematch, or will the better Sixers team get a stronger performance and find a cover this time?
The 76ers finally look like the team we’ve been waiting for them to be over the past few season, and that’s largely because Joel Embiid is finally playing at an MVP level night in and night out. He’s averaging 27.7 points and 11.5 rebounds a night and currently has the highest True Shooting (67.4%) of any 25-point scorer in any season in NBA history.
That obviously screams out for a bit of regression, but Embiid has a monster 67.6% Free Throw Rate and is hitting his free throws at a career-best 83%, so this scoring looks legit. If teams can’t stop Embiid in the post and don’t dare send him to the line to earn it, what are they supposed to do?
Well, they can hope Embiid wears down, for one thing. It was a surprise to see Embiid play at all on Saturday since it was the second night of a back-to-back, but he ended up playing 35 minutes after going 30 minutes the night before. Our Action Labs projected lineups list him as questionable for Monday. If Embiid is out, that changes everything on both ends for this team.
We haven’t even mentioned Embiid’s defense yet, but it’s Philadelphia’s defense that has led the way for the team, and that of course starts with Embiid. The Sixers rank top five in Defensive Rating and lead the league in opponent 2-point percentage. They’re funneling opponents toward Embiid and letting him disrupt things from there, and Ben Simmons is doing his job too.
Simmons has struggled to make his usual impact, so it was good to see him aggressive early against the Pistons his last time out. You can see the aggression in Simmons’s 12 trips to the free throw line, and it’s nice to see him hit 10 of the 12 too. It’s actually been Tobias Harris and Seth Curry making much more of an offensive impact for Philly, though Curry has gone from scorching hot to just his usual elite shooting self since his return from injury.
Philadelphia’s bench remains a struggle. The team just hasn’t found reliable depth since going all on in an expensive starting lineup. Dwight Howard is a quality fill-in for Embiid defensively, but the Sixers need more from Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey as bench scorers.
Milton is scoring 15.4 PPG but can run hot and cold, and his minutes have shrunk the last couple games. Maxey has gone MIA entirely with just four points combined in his past three, and his playing time has nearly disappeared too. Who knows what’s happening with that, but Philadelphia is missing his production.
The Pistons certainly have not been good this season, but they’re not nearly as bad as their 3-13 record would indicate. Detroit is more below average than atrocious. The Pistons rank 23rd in Offensive Efficiency and 22nd in Defensive Efficiency with a -4.6 Net Rating.
The underlying numbers suggest Detroit is more like a 6-10 team than a 3-13 one, and that makes sense when you look at how hard the Pistons are fighting. Even with 13 losses, only one of those has come by more than 10 points all season, and there are two losses by a bucket and two more in overtime. The Pistons could easily have a more respectable record if things had bounced their way a bit.
Jerami Grant has been a revelation for Detroit to lead the way. Grant has flourished in his bigger role in Detroit, averaging 24.3 points a game. He’s also starting to take on a bigger playmaking role, looking a bit like Blake Griffin with how he’s playing point forward at times.
Grant has at least three assists in five straight games, averaging 4.6 APG over that stretch. Some books are still listing his assists over at 2.5, so be sure to play that if it’s available. Even at 3.0 or 3.5, an over is worth considering. Grant had a nightmare outing against Philly on Saturday but should bounce back.
The Pistons were also missing Derrick Rose on Saturday, along with Griffin. It should be very encouraging that the Pistons nearly pulled off the upset even missing two of their key players and getting a terrible game from their star, but there’s also some letdown factor there from Philadelphia too, who may not have shown up mentally for a 3-12 team missing their two biggest faces, so don’t read too much into that. Each game is unique.
Detroit is a poor rebounding team, and the Pistons rank dead last in 2-point percentage on offense. Matching the worst 2-point shooting team against the best one defending inside the arc sounds like a serious problem. Detroit shot 23-of-53 on 2s against Philly on Saturday, an ugly 43.3%. But they were saved by 30 free throw attempts and a nice 42.4% behind the arc, with those unexpected points keeping them in the game.
You can play the surface logic here if you like. The Pistons were missing Griffin and Rose and got a terrible shooting night from Grant and still almost beat the Sixers on Saturday, and the Pistons have hung around in these games and made life uncomfortable for opponents.
That could tempt us to play a Pistons cover or even an upset. Detroit is only 8-7-1 against the spread this season, though. Even as they play in so many relatively close games, the Pistons are not necessarily covering.
An over could be tempting here. Both teams have gone over the expected total in four of five games. The game Saturday closed at 215.5 and went over by almost 10 points. I’d expect that line to tick up a few points accordingly, and that may remove the potential value if it does.
The matchup here says there’s always a chance the Pistons just can’t score on Philly. If Embiid is playing, Detroit is going to have a nightmare trying to score inside the arc. That’s what happens when you’re the worst team in the league already and now you’re facing a Defensive Player of the Year candidate protecting the rim.
The Pistons hung in on Saturday because of their 3-point shooting and additional free throw attempts, and if either of those goes missing, or if the bench doesn’t hold its big advantage, I’m not sure where else they’ll find their margin.
If Embiid doesn’t play on a third game in four days, it wouldn’t be a surprise. If you see the line creep below five points, that should tell you the books are expecting Embiid to sit.
Philadelphia is 0-3 straight up this season without Embiid, losing by 38 combined to the Cavs, Nuggets, and Grizzlies. If Embiid does sit, as much as Detroit has been hanging around in these games, it’s probably worth a shot at a Pistons money line with nice plus odds.
Be careful about blindly taking an over, assuming Philly’s defense would be worse, because the offense will miss Embiid just as much if he’s out.
If Embiid does play, I’d expect this line to settle in around -7 or -8, a touch below where it closed by tip on Saturday. Even with Detroit keeping it close last time out, that 2-point percentage difference sticks out like a sore thumb. The Sixers have won six times this season by 12 or more points. When they’re locked in, they can really run away with things.
Check the news before playing. If Embiid is in the lineup and expected to be a full go, I’ll play the 76ers up to -7.5. If he’s out, I’ll nibble at a Pistons moneyline instead.