Typically I find the NBA playoffs fairly easy to predict. I’m pretty glad I was away during the weekend for bachelor party festivities, as I probably would not have predicted the 76er and Raptors to both lose yet again to dive head first into 0-3 holes.
This is not how these series were supposed to go. Toronto had the best seed in the Eastern Conference and looked like a changed unit. The curse of the Cavaliers still hangs over them like a dark cloud, however, and they’re about to get swept.
Ben Simmons and the Sixers felt like a revelation during the first round. They smoked a solid Miami Heat defense and had many convinced that they were the true top dog in this conference.
Not so much, it seems.
Philly’s inability to get even one win to this point puts bettors in an awkward spot; bet against the 76ers to win even one game in this series with tonight’s game coming at home, or roll with Boston for the sweep.
Luckily, Vegas is cutting us some slack. If you love the Sixers in a total rout, you’re not in horrible shape with a -6 point spread. If you love the Celtics or still expect a Philly win to be of the hard-earned variety, the Celtics at +6 feels like a steal.
Regardless of which way you’re leaning, let’s take a closer look at this series and this game four showdown to make sure we come away with a winning bet. I’ve had solid success throughout the NBA playoffs (10-6-1) and hope to keep that rolling on Monday night:
Boston Celtics (+6, -110) @ Philadelphia 76ers (-6, -110) Total: 205 (-110)
Given the fact that this game is in Philly and the 76ers love to push the pace and can explode offensively, the Over is very much in play tonight.
If you’re not feeling the other bets available to you, that’s a secondary bet I’d be all about. The Over is 2-1 in this series and considering it’s gone 7-3 in games the Celtics have played, it needs to be taken even more seriously.
Boston is the team that ran a slower pacer during the regular season and offers more defensively, but they’re actually contributing to these games being more explosive.
While I like the Over, I find it very difficult to bypass Boston at +6.5. The Celtics have beaten the spread in every game in this series, they’ve gone 8-2 ATS throughout the playoffs and they pace the league (58-32-2) with the best against the spread mark on the year.
The Celtics are down two star players since the start of the year, but they just keep on trucking.
Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have all stepped up in bigger roles and evolved on the fly. This Boston team isn’t the one that made it to the Eastern Conference Finals last year and they’re not the same unit they were with Kyrie Irving, but it’s become quite clear that they’re still very good.
Brad Stevens’ genius makes them even more dangerous. Even when they’re not winning, they’re often controlling games and giving themselves a shot late. Philly could have made adjustments to snag wins in game two or three, but give credit where credit is due; the Celtics did what needed to be done to get up to a 3-0 lead.
I don’t think you can shrug any of that off. Add in the fact that Boston is just as good ATS (23-7) as an underdog, on the road (29-15) or as a road dog (13-7) and it’s very tough to go against them at +6.
Taking Boston at +215 to finish the sweep is in play, but I have too much respect for the Sixers to go that hard at the Celtics tonight.
Let’s keep in mind that Boston was very much in both of these last two games and probably should have won one of them. They’re also at home, where they went 30-11 during the regular season and 26-14 ATS as a home favorite.
Philly also still has one of the most dynamic offenses in the entire league. Joel Embiid has shown up in every game in this series and the Sixers as a whole still have the outside shooting to blitz Boston in a hurry.
The ability is there and the Sixers are at home, but the production hasn’t been a complete effort. Ben Simmons scored literally one point in game two, turned the ball over seven times in game one and Philly’s outside shooting just hasn’t bailed him out enough.
Joel Embiid has been a solid anchor throughout the series, but Boston has simply made it difficult for the Sixers to torch them from outside. Philadelphia collectively nailed just 19% of their long balls in game one and shot just 30% on 30 tries in game three. The only game they caught fire (39% in game two), their defense allowed Boston to be even better (41% from deep).
Philadelphia has shown their youth in this series. They haven’t adapted to Boston’s defense enough and even when they have executed offensively, they haven’t been getting it done on the other end. Eventually the Sixers will figure it out and be an impossible team to stop, but I’m not sure it happens in this series.
Maybe it’ll come in time to avoid the sweep, but two very realistic possibilities lie ahead of us tonight; Boston making the Sixers work for their first win of this series or the Celtics simply closing this thing out. I’m fearful of both and Boston has been amazing ATS, so at +6, I’ll just ride with them and assume they at least keep this one close.