Celtics vs. 76ers Player Props Preview Article


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3 Player Props May 14: Boston Has Joel Embiid Figured Out

For today's Game 7 matchup between Boston and Philadelphia, I will recommend three prop bets: one, James Harden to score fewer than 21 points; two, Joel Embiid to score fewer than 32 points; three their teammate De'Anthony Melton to make more than one three-pointer.

Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics
Sunday, May 14, 2023 at 4:30 p.m. ET at TD Garden in Boston

  • James Harden tends to underperform in playoff situations
  • Boston has figured out how to stop Harden by having Jaylen Brown hound him
  • Tyrese Maxey is playing a bigger role in Philadelphia's offense

James Harden, Playoff Choker

James Harden is well-known as a player who chokes during the playoffs.

Harden's reputation justifies pessimism toward his performance in the most high-stakes playoff series situation, Game 7, when everything is on the line.

His history with everything on the line in the playoffs is negative in general.

For example, in the second round, with his team down 2-3 in its series against Miami, Philadelphia lost as Harden failed to show up.

In that game, Harden scored 11 points and committed four turnovers.

As he has been at times in this series already, he was particularly tentative to score. His passivity induced his teammates to try to assume the responsibility that he needed to show.

Harden's Game 6 disappointment last year is representative of his tendency to disappoint in Game 7s.

In his career, his field goal percentage is a miserable 37.4 in his five career Game 7 opportunities.

Jaylen Brown's Defense

This series, Boston has Harden well figured out.

Evidence for this is the fact that Harden has scored fewer than 18 points in four of the six games so far.

The key for the Celtics has been to hound him with Jaylen Brown.

Though known for his scoring prowess, Brown is also a solid defender who has the physical tools to keep up especially with an older Harden.

Harden's Teammates

Harden will score fewer points today also because his teammates will score more.

Philadelphia wants guard Tyrese Maxey to be more aggressive especially by complementing his inclination to drive inside with a higher frequency of three-point attempts.

As Maxey's productivity has increased, Harden's has declined.

Best Bet: James Harden under 20.5 points at -126 with BetOnline

  • Boston is focused on curbing Joel Embiid's scoring production
  • The Celtics' two-big lineup effectively keeps Embiid from scoring too much
  • Aware of his scoring limitations, Embiid is urging teammates to assume more responsibility on offense

Is The Number Reasonable?

The over/under for Joel Embiid's point total currently sits at 30.5 points.

This point total would rightly appear to be spot-on if Game 6 did not take place.

Before Game 6, Embiid had scored 30 to 34 points in three straight games.

So, when things were going well for Embiid, the over/under as it currently stand would look dicey.

But I like the "under" on Embiid's point total because things are not going well for him.

As a result of Boston's two-big lineup, Embiid scored 26 points in Game 6.

While 26 points might seem slightly too close to 31 for our comfort, he also made all of his free throws, which he surely won't do again.

The Celtics will remain devoted to committing two bigs to limit Embiid in the paint because the strategy was clearly effective in Game 6.

When Embiid scored 26 points, his 76ers scored 86 points in a loss.

Similarly, when Embiid scored 15 points in Game 2, Philadelphia scored 87 points in a loss.

It has become apparent to Boston that to stop Embiid means to stop Philadelphia as an entire team.

Embiid's Teammates

Embiid has realized that he cannot be as effective scoring-wise given Boston's defensive strategy.

He has urged teammate Tyrese Maxey to attempt more three-pointers.

This decision on his part, to encourage his teammates to take more shots, reflects his awareness of his own situation, of Boston's commitment to limiting his productivity.

The current over/under articulates oddsmakers' now obsolete rendering of Embiid's scoring chances.

Best Bet: Joel Embiid under 30.5 points at -110 with BetOnline

  • Confronted with Boston's two-big lineup, Joel Embiid needs teammates to pass to behind the arc
  • As a catch-and-shoot guy, Melton is built to play well off Embiid.
  • De'Anthony Melton is an efficient three-point shooter with good volume

De'Anthony Melton's Volume

I love for De'Anthony Melton the fact that he made zero out of his four three-point attempts in Game 6.

This feeling might seem odd, but the fact that he attempted four threes without making any shows me two things:

One, he still has confidence in his shot, because if he didn't have this confidence, then he wouldn't be attempting so many threes.

Two, he has the green light from his team to keep attempting threes.

Volume is crucial because more shot attempts means more chances at making threes.

During the postseason, he has attempted 4.4 threes per game, which is close to his regular season average of 5.2 three-point attempts per game.

This volume makes it rather easy for him to make two threes.

He is converting 40.9 percent of his three-point attempts in this postseason, which is slightly up from his regular season average.

The point of all this is to say that Melton is a good and well-respected shooter.

Celtic defenders have not had reason to fear him lately, so they will be concerned with other 76er scorers, leaving him plenty of chances to reassert himself in this series.

He made five threes in Game 1 and four in Game 3, so he is plenty capable of making a lot of threes.

Melton's Importance

Melton's importance is magnified by Boston's commitment to limiting Joel Embiid's scoring via its two-big lineup.

Especially when multiple Celtic defenders work to guard Embiid inside, Embiid needs teammates to throw to.

Melton will play well off Embiid by positioning himself behind the arc where he can accrue favorable opportunities.

Best Bet: De'Anthony Melton over 1.5 three point field goals made at +164 with Bovada
I kinda looking at Embid differently. I don’t think there any chance he doesn’t take more shots than gm6, he didn’t get a touch the final 4 minutes and wasn’t happy about it. I agree Boston d is much better with Williams on the floor with horford but I don’t think that limits Embid as much as it just makes the overall team d better. I don’t even think the goal should be stop Embid, him scoring 30+ isn’t what shifted gms 4-5 to Philly, it was harden scoring 40 then Maxey 30 that was the difference. Stop harden, limit Maxey and Boston wins even if Embid scores 35+.

In the post game presser Embid didn’t sound like a guy that was gonna trust his teammates and take less shots game 7! Assuming he no more efficient than last game all he needs is 4-5 more shots and he gets into the 30s, I don’t see him taking only 19 shots again. He might not hit every ft but I think he takes and makes more than the 8 in gm6. I’d be shocked if he didn’t come out aggressive in this game.