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Nets-76ers Series Betting Preview: All About Embiid as Value Tilts Slightly Towards Brooklyn

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Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21).

  • The Nets and Sixers will match up in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
  • In a series that could be largely determined by the status of Joel Embiid, Matt Moore offers his optimal betting strategy.

No. 3 Philadelphia 76ers vs. No. 6 Brooklyn Nets

Price: Sixers -800 | Nets +500
Key Matchup: Limiting Joel Embiid

Embiid completely wrecked this matchup this season and the Nets have little recourse here. With Embiid on the floor, despite the Sixers and Nets splitting the season series 2-2, Philadelphia held a +9.5 net rating per 100 possessions. That’s compared to a -28.1 mark with Embiid on the bench.

Embiid’s status for Game 1 is unknown. Brett Brown mysteriously said Wednesday the team would release more details on his status later. If Embiid can’t go, this entire series flips in Brooklyn’s favor. With Jarrett Allen on the floor, Embiid made 1.8 3-pointers per 36 minutes as he just walked into shots like this:

 

Allen’s just not comfortable yet in stepping out to the perimeter. Embiid’s ability to hit that shot shreds and that’s before his advantage inside.

There are counters: Philadelphia is 21st in fast-break points allowed per 100 possessions, despite a good transition defense per-possession number. One of the Nets’ two wins vs. the Sixers this season was the one they played at the highest pace of the four meetings.

This isn’t a strength for the Nets, but when you’re the underdog you gotta pull some tricks out. They actually produced roughly the same amount of fast-break points off 100 possessions with Embiid on court as off.

That can’t work. They can slow it down when he’s on the bench, but every minute he’s on, they need to be trying to gas him to get him off the court. Otherwise, he’s just going to smash through the place like a T-Rex in a Mac Store.

Wait on the Embiid news. If Embiid is limited in any capacity, the Nets in an upset are going to be really valuable.

The Nets make the fifth-most 3-pointers per game in the league, while the Sixers are 19th in that category. Both teams are top-five in limiting both attempts and makes per 100 possessions, but if you’re aiming for the upset, you want that 3-point variance to help adjust for the talent gap with pure math. If the Sixers are plugging in 2-pointers and the Nets are bombing threes, that tilts things in their direction.

While Embiid’s simply too much of a mismatch here in one-on-one coverage, I’ve got one more caveat for you. In a random regular season game you don’t commit to much of a matchup strategy. You can’t teach it, it’s only useful that night and then useless the night after, and you don’t want to give anything away. The Nets doubled Embiid on only seven possessions logged by Synergy.

There may have been more where he simply kicked out and they reset the play, but only seven times did it result in a shot, turnover or foul. Embiid scored just four points on those seven possessions, which is in line with his season averages.

Embiid scored just 89 points on 108 possessions (34th percentile) when hard-doubled this season. If the Nets do employ that strategy, it could turn things around.

Value Play: Nets (+500)

In advance of a potential Embiid injury update, and factoring the possibility of either A.) pushing the pace or B.) hard doubling, there’s real value in the Nets here at +500. I wouldn’t be shocked if they won. A hedge of Sixers in five at +150 might take some of the sting off.

Laying the -800 for this team without knowing Embiid’s status, when their offensive floor this season has consistently been low even if the ceiling has been high, is too rich.

If you don’t buy into the Nets’ math advantage and think Philly will just overwhelm the Nets, it’s hard to argue. But the value considering all factors leans towards the Nets because of how big of an underdog they are relative to their performance against Philly this season.

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