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The 3-seed Philadelphia 76ers (3-0) are down a man when they meet the 6-seed Brooklyn Nets (0-3) in Game 4 of their playoff series Saturday at Barclays Center. Specifically, the probable 2023 NBA MVP, Sixers big Joel Embiid.
This is “load management” and I cannot be convinced otherwise. I’m sure Embiid is NOT 100% but if this were an elimination game for Philly or the NBA Finals, I bet Embiid plays.
Embiid missed the 1st two games of last year’s NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals series vs. the Miami Heat. Philadelphia lost both and the Sixers went on to lose that series 4-2.
With Embiid on the sidelines, the best player in this series is now Nets wing Mikal Bridges. He’s averaging a series-high 25.7 points per game (PPG) on 45.8% shooting (42.1% from behind the arc).
Sixers All-Star James Harden finally broke out of his slump in Game 3. Harden scored 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting before getting tossed for nut-tapping Nets wing Royce O’Neale on a drive to the basket.
Philly is 7-0 straight up (SU) vs. Brooklyn this season dating back to the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving days. The 76ers are 5-1-1 against the spread (ATS) in those games with a +8.2 ATS differential.
76ers At Nets, Game 4 odds (DraftKings Sportsbook)
- Tip-off: Saturday, April 22nd at 1 p.m. ET.
- Venue: Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Even though the Nets have done a great job defending Embiid, he has still been Philadelphia’s most important player in this series. Per CleaningTheGlass.com, Embiid has the best adjusted on/off net rating of all the Sixers’ starters.
Just because 76ers coach Doc Rivers might throw out more small-ball lineups in Game 4 doesn’t mean Brooklyn has to go small. Nets big Nic Claxton has the athleticism to defend ball handlers in switches.
Furthermore, not having Embiid out there is going to hurt the Philadelphia’s pick-and-roll action. The Sixers are only +0.3 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time when Harden is on the floor and Embiid is on the bench, per CTG.
Also, these games have been closer than Philly’s 3-0 series lead indicates. Brooklyn held at least at the end of the 1st halves of Games 2 and 3. These teams have split the “four factors” for this series.
The Nets are getting crushed on the board but it’ll obviously be easier for Brooklyn to grab rebounds with Embiid not out there. A big reason why Sixers are owning the glass is due to the Nets being out of position having to double-team Embiid.
I’ve probably wasted too much ink here because ultimately I’m just fading the 76ers without their best player. Philly will most likely advance to the 2nd-round but I’m getting the same vibes with these Sixers as past years.
BET: Nets +2 (-110) at DraftKings, down to a pick ’em
Check out Geoff’s basketball betting show on the OutKick Bets Podcast feed for the audio versions of the handicaps.
Listen to the ‘OutKick Bets with Geoff Clark’ podcast HERE.
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