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One of the most storied rivalries in NBA history starts a new chapter Monday. The 2-seed Boston Celtics host the 3-seed Philadelphia 76ers for Game 1 of the 2024 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Boston survived a quasi-scare from the 7-seed Hawks in the 1st round but finished off Atlanta on the road in six games. Celtics All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown averaged a combined 53.9 points per game (PPG) vs. the Hawks.
Philly swept 6-seed Brooklyn in the 1st round. The 76ers closed out the Nets without probable 2022-23 NBA MVP Joel Embiid who missed Game 4 with a knee injury. Embiid is “doubtful” for the series opener with Boston Monday.
The Celtics beat the Sixers 3-1 straight up (SU) and 4-0 against the spread (ATS) during the regular season and their totals were 1-3 Over/Under (O/U) with a -6.9 O/U margin.
76ers at Celtics Game 1 odds (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Joel Embiid’s absence affects Philadelphia’s offense more so than its defense
Per CleaningTheGlass.com (CTG), Philly’s effective field goal shooting fell by 3.6% when Embiid was out of the game during the regular season. The 76ers get to the foul line 10.4% less when Embiid is off the floor as well.
Boston can stay home on 3-point shooters without the threat of Embiid bullying the Celtics down low. It’ll be easy for Boston’s front-court defensive anchor, C Robert Williams III, to lock up the paint.
‘Styles Make Fights’
76ers-Celtics had a 91.9 pace in their four regular-season meetings, which would rank for the 12th in these playoffs. Also, Boston was 20th in pace during the regular season and Philadelphia was 27th.
Furthermore, the Sixers are more likely to slow the tempo down to avoid a shootout without its best player, Embiid. Philly and Brooklyn played at an 89.4 pace in their 1st-round series finale.
Plus, James Harden has been banged up since mid-March. The 76ers’ fastbreak frequency lowers when Harden is in the game and they score 3.2 fewer points in transition per 100 possessions, per CTG.
The Celtics played faster vs. the Hawks in the 1st-round than they did in the regular season. But, that was because Boston was willing to get into a shootout with Atlanta since the Hawks play Swiss-cheese defense.
Suspect Line Movement
Game 1 opened with a 215.5-point total and steamed down to the current number (214). Interestingly, the total plummeted despite more than 80% of the action at DraftKings being on the Over as of Sunday night, according to VSIN.
Honestly, this is the most important handicapping angle. At first, I thought “Man, this total is too low”. Apparently, the market agrees. So why are the sportsbooks lowering the total? It feels like the House is trying to get more action on the Over.
BET: UNDER 214 in 76ers-Celtics from DraftKings, down to 213
- Prediction: Boston 112, Philadelphia 98
- Betting strategy: Wait until closer to tip-off (7:30 p.m. ET) before taking the UNDER. Usually, the public likes betting on Overs, especially in primetime games. This total got as low as 213.5. Perhaps it gets back to 215 if we stay patient.
Listen to the ‘OutKick Bets with Geoff Clark’ podcast HERE.
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