76ers/Celtics & Suns/Nuggets Preview Article


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3 Picks May 1: 76ers Deserve Bettors' Respect Even Without Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
Monday, May 1, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston

  • Philadelphia was competitive with Boston during the regular season
  • The 76ers are a deep team with guys who can step up, examples including Harris and Maxey.
  • The rally angle has been valuable for bettors in these playoffs.

Embiid's Value Is Overrated

While it has not been established, it is looking like Philadelphia's star center, Joel Embiid, won't play in Game 1.

He has reportedly incurred an LCL Sprain that is too severe to be called Grade 1.

Even if he were to play, he would likewise be hobbling uselessly and thus reduced to a shell of himself.

While Embiid is obviously a great player, the odds appear ridiculous to me.

Recall that, in Boston's two regular season home games against Philly, the Celtics were favored by three points which, which is six points fewer than they're currently favored by.

In their four regular season meetings, these teams were too competitive to justify calling Boston a nine-point favorite.

The Celtics won one game by nine points and two games by fewer points, and they lost one game.

To say that Embiid is responsible for Philadelphia being as successful as it was in those four games isn't right.

it is rather the case that Embiid's teammates underperformed, causing them to perform as poorly as they did in those four games.

For example, when the 76ers lost 99-106 in Boston, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey combined for an inexcusable 10 points with 0-for-7 three-point shooting.

Embiid's absence would make it all the more necessary that capable scorers like these step up.

Rally Angle

In these playoffs, we've seen the rally angle repeatedly apply contrary to popular angle.

Atlanta, for example, beat Boston without key guard Dejounte Murray.

Golden State beat Sacramento without crucial defender and distributor Draymond Green.

Philadelphia just beat the Nets without Embiid.

+9 is a must-play on principle, if nothing else.

Best Bet: 76ers +9 at -105 with BetOnline

  • Embiid's offense will be missed more than his defense
  • Paul Reed will step up in Embiid's place, making an impact especially on defense
  • Jayson Tatum should fear PJ Tucker's physical brand of defense.

Missing Embiid

We should assume that Embiid won't play given the severity of his LCL sprain.

The 76ers should be confident that they can without him because they just did -- Philly beat the Nets without Embiid to complete its sweep of them.

Part of the reason why I like the "under" is that Embiid's value would rather be on the offensive end.

Embiid is one of three 76er players to be averaging 20 points or more in the postseason.

During the regular season, he led his team with 33.1 points per game, which is nearly 12 more than any of his teammates.

But one reason why this game will be competitive is that Embiid has a replacement whose defense is profoundly valuable.

As evident in his defensive rating, center Paul Reed is a strong defender.

His combination of energy, wingspan, and defensive skill set make him a lot for opposing offenses to handle.

With Embiid out and the rally angle in play, his effort will be particularly effective in keeping Boston's scoring output low.

Slowing Down the Stars

But Embiid's offensive output -- in case he plays and limps through the game -- is not the only one that will disappoint "over" bettors in this game.

Celtics' star Jayson Tatum is having nightmares about now current 76er PJ Tucker.

When he was on the Heat, Tucker used his characteristic physicality to give Tatum massive difficulties.

In Game 3 of their playoff series, for example, Miami won while Tucker helped limit Tatum to 10 points and six turnovers.

The limitations of each team's top scorer will keep this game low-scoring.

Best Bet: Under 213.5 at -110 with BetOnline

Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets
Monday, April 1, 2023 at 10 p.m. ET at Ball Arena in Denver

  • Phoenix relies too heavily on its two star scorers
  • The Nuggets have more answers for Booker and Durant than the Suns do for Jokic and Murray
  • Denver blows Phoenix out of the water in terms of scoring depth.

Relying Too Much on Two Players

Phoenix is out of its league against Denver.

To see why, recall what the Suns had to give up in order to acquire superstar Kevin Durant.

They lost Mikal Bridges, who ranked fourth on the team with 17.2 points, and Cam Johnson, who ranked fifth on the Suns with 13.9 points per game.

Their absences help create an excessive reliance on two players, Devin Booker and Durant.

In Game 1, Denver's defense found success by blitzing Booker and Durant while coming up with the rotations necessary to impede Phoenix from countering those blitzes with Deandre Ayton's slips.

Despite Denver's defensive triumphs, the Suns were able to be efficient from their characteristically preferred mid-range spaces, which is to say that they lost as badly as they did without being able to cite disappointing mid-range efficiency as an excuse.

On the other side, the Nuggets rely extensively on two players, Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic.

Partly why Denver won so easily is that Murray produced yet another 30-point output.

Impressively, Jokic was rather off, missing shots that he usually makes.

Denver's Depth

The Nuggets can thrive even with perennial MVP candidate Jokic not being at his best because they have so much depth.

Depth is where they really distance themselves from the Suns who eviscerated their roster to get Durant.

Bruce Brown underachieved -- his driving ability should be effective against the Suns with their beleaguered perimeter defense -- Bridges and Johnson were crucial for them here.

But the Nuggets can still count on sundry other contributors for offense.

Best Bet: Nuggets -4.5 at -108 with BetOnline
Kinda ran out of steam by the time I got to Nuggets/Suns haha but I think the 76ers +9 play actually looks pretty nifty? Thoughts from someone who knows NBA?