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Basketball Betting Analysis: Our Top NBA Picks for June 8

Atlanta Hawks vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Tuesday, June 8, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. ET (TNT) at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia

Explanation for Game 1


The fact that Atlanta pulled off the upset in Game 1 may increase people’s belief in Atlanta as a team and in the way that the Hawks match up with Philadelphia.

But Atlanta won Game 1 for reasons that Philadelphia has proven that it can address. I don’t like Atlanta tonight because the decisive reasons for Atlanta’s success in Game 1 will not exist tonight.

In Game 1, the Hawks won by four. The benefitted from a 17-0 run aided by multiple 76er turnovers. Such a run is uncharacteristic for the 76ers to allow.

Moreover, Atlanta was aided by Philadelphia’s disastrous defensive strategy in the first half that enabled the Hawks to lead 74-54.

Danny Green struggled to serve as Hawk star Trae Young’s primary defender.

Arguably more decisive, though, was the scheme. Philadelphia employed a deep drop coverage against Atlanta’s ball screen-heavy offense.

This defensive scheme allowed Trae to do what he wanted on ball screens, which form a seminal component of the Hawk offensive style.

Despite having a chance to tie the game late, the 76ers had too much of a deficit to overcome.

Defensive Adjustments

Philadelphia won the second half by 16 points largely because of adjustments that it made. I like the 76ers tonight because I expect their success to continue as a result of the things that they figured out.

First of all, they figured out that drop coverage is problematic against Atlanta. Having Joel Embiid position himself as deeply as he did in the first half did not work.

In the second half, Philly benefitted from positioning Embiid closer to the screen.

The 76er defense was also more dynamic in its response to Trae.

By trapping and pressing, Philly defenders used their length to ignite turnovers from Trae and the Hawk offense that led to quick and easy baskets for Philadelphia. The 76ers also thrived simply because they gave Trae more looks.

Another big reason why Trae scored only 10 points in the second half after accruing 25 in the first half was the individual defense of Ben Simmons.

Simmons is a top-level defender, for which reason he was named a Defensive Player of the Year finalist.

He is lengthy at 6-11. By comparison, Young is only 6-1.

In addition to size, Simmons has the athletic ability to remain glued to quick ball-handlers.

By being able to stick a superb defender on Trae, Philadelphia doesn’t just limit Trae.

Philadelphia also avoids having other defenders easily help off of Hawk shooters.

Atlanta did overachieve from beyond the arc relative to its season average. The Hawks converted a statistically unusual frequency of their wide open three-point attempts.

But they also benefitted by accruing so many wide open three-point attempts. By having Simmons guard Trae, Philadelphia will reduce Atlanta’s wide open three-point attempt frequency.

Elements of Continuity from Game 1

In Game 1, Philadelphia amassed 58 points in the paint.

Some of those points came off of turnovers ignited by their combination of pressing and trapping.

But Philly accrued a lot of those points also in its half-court offense.

Star Joel Embiid was one factor. With his overwhelming size and physicality at 7-0 and 280 pounds, he is a match-up nightmare for the Hawk interior defense.

In addition to 39 points from Embiid, the 76er offense could count on 20 from Tobias Harris, who typically drives a lot inside, as well as 17 from Simmons.

76er players could get in the paint partly because Hawk defender De'Andre Hunter did not play.

Hunter is just one player — after all, the Hawks ranked 20th in the regular season in limiting opposing points in the paint. But his 105.9 defensive rating in the regular season attests to his individual quality as a defender.

With a combination of length and lateral foot speed, Hunter is an important asset in Atlanta’s attempt to keep Philly out of the paint.

Critically, he is listed as a game-time decision for Game 2 with knee soreness. So he might not be healthy enough to even see the floor.

Whether he plays for not, I expect more from the 76er offense in Game 2 because Tyrese Maxey was off in game 1.

Maxey proved himself to be somewhat of a revelation for Philadelphia off the bench. In the first round against Washington, Maxey reached double digits three times.

He benefits from having solid speed, which allows him to beat his man inside.

The Verdict

With its defensive adjustments, Philadelphia is prepared to limit Trae and the entire Hawk offense.

Guys like Simmons and Harris will help the 76ers thrive again inside.

Best Bet: 76ers -5.5 at -108 with Heritage
 
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