Game 4: Philadelphia (2-1) at Brooklyn (1-2)
Saturday, 3 PM ET (TNT)
Free NBA Picks: Over & Nets
Best Lines Offered: Bookmaker
Two takeaways from this writer regarding the Eastern Conference first-round series between the third-seeded Philadelphia 76ers and No. 6 Brooklyn Nets following Philly’s relatively easy 131-115 road victory on Thursday to take a 2-1 series lead: The Sixers will NOT be winning the Eastern Conference and the Nets blew their shot to win this series.
Regarding the first, that’s because Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid, easily the best in the league at his position (all due respect to Nikola Jokic) and one of the five most dominant players in the league, clearly isn’t close to 100 percent with some left knee issues. Embiid sat 14 of the 76ers’ 24 regular-season games following the All-Star break. He played the first two games vs. the Nets and was typically awesome in averaging 22.5 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Even more impressive: He did that averaging only 22.5 minutes.
In a bit of a surprise, the 76ers sat Embiid for Game 3 and yet his teammates responded. Especially Greg Monroe and Boban Marjanovic. Monroe, signed in early April after being released by Toronto, started Game 3 and had nine points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes. Marjanovic, a cult figure in the NBA, had 14 points and eight rebounds and Philly was plus-18 in his 18 minutes. In addition, starters Ben Simmons (31 points), Tobias Harris (29 points) and JJ Redick (26 points) played great.
Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?
Indeed, what do you do if you are Philly for Game 4? Rest Embiid again knowing at worst you head home tied 2-2? Play him Saturday in hopes of going up 3-1 and potentially finishing this series ASAP and getting Embiid as much rest as possible ahead of the conference semifinals (which I think the Sixers lose to Toronto with a less-than-100-percent Embiid)? Embiid is officially listed as questionable for Game 4, the same status as the first three. With the early-afternoon start and the performance by everyone else on Thursday, we don’t think Embiid plays.
The Nets are a young team in the playoffs for the first time (for the most part). They simply didn’t take advantage of a huge gift on Thursday. Brooklyn came out flat despite a bunch of pre-game hype surrounding perceived disrespect from Embiid and Simmons following Game 3. The Nets shot just 41.1 percent overall and hit only 8-for-39 from deep.
When Brooklyn hits single-digit three-pointers, this team is going to lose. That’s a huge part of Coach Kenny Atkinson’s attack. Joe Harris was one of the best in the NBA from deep during the season and won the All-Star Game 3-Point Contest but hasn’t made a three-pointer in the past two games and is averaging just 8.3 points in the series. Frankly, only D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert have shown up much in the past two losses.
- 76ers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up win.
- Nets are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games following a straight up loss of more than 10 points.
- Over is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings.
Expect the Nets to come out way more aggressively on Saturday, and those early start times always benefit the home teams. Love the ‘over’ here and think the Nets do steal Game 3 – whether Embiid plays or not.