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NBA Odds & Picks for 76ers vs. Clippers: Wait on Kawhi Leonard’s Status (March 27)

NBA Odds & Picks for 76ers vs. Clippers: Wait on Kawhi Leonard’s Status (March 27) article feature image

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images. Pictured: 76ers’ Ben Simmons

  • The Clippers are favored over the 76ers in Saturday night NBA action.
  • Some star power will be missing from this clash, with Joel Embiid still out for Philly and Kawhi Leonard questionable for L.A.
  • Brandon Anderson is passing on this game until Kawhi's status is more clear.

76ers vs. Clippers Odds

76ers Odds +4
Clippers Odds -4
Moneyline +145/-175
Over/Under 223
Time Saturday, 10 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday morning and via BetMGM

For the third time this week, what would have been a marquee game featuring MVP candidates on both sides could end up marred by injuries.

Joel Embiid won’t play in this one. That much is clear. But Kawhi Leonard is also questionable with a foot injury, so both sides could be without their best player. We’ll still get Ben Simmons and Paul George, and maybe even Kawhi, and it should still be a competitive game between two of the league’s finest teams.

It could even turn out to be a Finals preview.

76ers Finding Themselves Without Embiid

Against all odds, the Philadelphia 76ers are now 32-13, still sitting atop the East standings. Philadelphia has been without Embiid for 14 games already this season, and Simmons has missed eight himself. Don’t forget Seth Curry was also out for nearly a month and the team dealt with some serious COVID issues too.

It’s pretty impressive that the Sixers still lead the East in spite of all that. They’re also still second in Defensive Efficiency per Basketball Reference. They’ve actually led the league in defense over the past 15 games, per Kirk Goldberry, and remember — no Embiid for most of those.

Philadelphia’s defense has been outstanding, with Simmons at the heart of things as a serious contender for Defensive Player of the Year. Even without Embiid, the Sixers have played elite defense and kept their rebounding edge. It’s a good reminder that Embiid isn’t the only great defender on this team.

Philly’s offense is actually what has suffered most without Embiid this season. Philadelphia’s offensive rating drops from over 122 with Embiid to under 110 without him per Pivot Analysis. Philly’s huge free-throw rate falls way off without Embiid, from 29% to under 17%, and the shooting drops way off. Philadelphia’s 3-point percentage drops from 40% with Embiid to 34% without him, and its 2-point percentage falls from 56% to 51%. Embiid has been an MVP candidate for a reason — and that reason is actually far more on offense than defense.

Still, the Sixers seem to have found their way without Embiid by doubling down on defense. Philadelphia started the year 0-4 without Embiid but has won eight of 10 since then, including 8-2 against the spread. Since the break, Philly is 7-1 without Embiid both straight up and ATS, and the Sixers have allowed just 101.6 points per game over that stretch with six straight games going under.

Philadelphia is winning without Embiid, and they’re doing it with defense.

Clippers Due for Shooting Regression

The Clippers have quietly had a pretty great year of their own. It feels like all the focus has been elsewhere, maybe because we’re all waiting for the Clippers to win some games that matter in the playoffs, but for now this team is humming along.

The Clips are 30-16 and boast the fourth best Net Rating in the NBA, one spot ahead of Philadelphia. LA lost three in a row heading into the break but has won six of eight games since, and the Clippers continue to put up absolutely blistering shooting numbers. LA leads the league in both 3-point and free-throw percentage at 41.6% and 83.9%, respectively. And really, that’s the strength of this team. The Clippers are just really good at making a lot of shots. It turns out that’s pretty useful.

The rest of the profile remains relatively blah. The Clippers are around league average in number of 3-point attempts and bottom five in free-throw attempts. The defense has been mostly around average, maybe slightly above average at times. They’re a good-not-great rebounding team.

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Really, it’s just unsustainably hot shooting that has somehow sustained itself for 46 games at this point. The top five players in the Clippers rotation are all hitting at least 40% of their threes for the season, and so are Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard off the bench.

That’s insane, really, and it makes it really difficult to know how to bet this team. The profile shouldn’t hold up, and it didn’t for three key games in last year’s playoff bubble, but now it’s stayed strong all season.

There’s just one big problem with this game: Kawhi Leonard may not play, and he’s not the only one. Marcus Morris is also questionable with a calf injury. Patrick Beverley and Serge Ibaka are out injured. Rajon Rondo is a question mark and has only played 20 minutes three times this season, and remember, Lou Williams is no longer around either.

That’s five of LA’s top seven rotation guys potentially missing. And sure it still leaves PG along with Nic Batum, Ivica Zubac, Jackson, Kennard, and others, it’s a far cry from what this team is supposed to be.

Obviously the presence of Kawhi Leonard would solve a lot of problems. Clippers coach Ty Lue said Leonard sat Thursday with a foot injury as a precaution, so perhaps Leonard will play. It feels like that news could swing this game.

With Leonard and PG out there, the Clippers have been nearly fantastic. They’re 22-8 with both playing, including 19-11 ATS. That’s a 60-win pace over a full 82 game season. But they’re only 5-4 without Leonard, barely over .500. That’s a pretty huge difference.

76ers-Clippers Pick

So will Kawhi Leonard play? That’s the key question at hand here, and I’m not taking a position until we get a definitive answer.

The Clippers are 4-point favorites as of writing. That line would hint at Leonard sitting this one out, considering Embiid is already missing and the Clippers are playing at home. If Leonard does play, it’s safe to assume a regular workload. LA has been exceedingly careful with its star, so he’ll play normal minutes if he’s a go or skip altogether.

If Leonard is a no go, the Sixers are the play here. That +145 moneyline is tempting, because this could get end up near a pick’em  if Leonard is ruled out. But if Kawhi does play, the Clippers feel like the better bet. Even as good as Philadelphia has been without Embiid, it would be tough for the Sixers to match LA’s offense and score enough to keep up. Of course, if Leonard is definitely playing, this line may rise a couple points and kill off any value.

It’s a real catch-22, and it means we end up betting on Leonard’s health more than the game itself if we play this early, and that’s a no thanks from me. I’ll wait until we have an answer. If Leonard is playing and I can get this under five, I’ll make a small play on the Clippers. If he sits and the Sixers stay at plus odds underdogs, they’re the play.

In the end, with so much uncertainty, this might just be a game to sit out.

Play: Wait on Kawhi Leonard news and go from there. Follow Leonard’s status in our NBA Insiders tool, which gives him a 50/50 chance to play as of Saturday morning.

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