The Philadelphia 76ers (32-14) look to stay on top of the Eastern Conference when they take on the surging Denver Nuggets (28-18) on NBATV Tuesday night. Denver is 11-3 over its last 14 games.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Denver Nuggets
Tuesday, March 30, 2021 – 09:00 PM EDT at Ball Arena
The Nuggets are a 4.5-point favorite at most NBA sportsbooks. FiveThirtyEight sees the spread at 7.5 points with Denver having a win probability of 77%. The 76ers are 6-2 since Joel Embiid’s knee injury, but Denver is one of the toughest tests yet for the team without its best player. The 76ers are also 5-1-1 ATS with a rest advantage, the best record in the league this year.
76ers: Defense Leads the Way
Philadelphia lost its last game by 10 points on Saturday against the Clippers, but the team has managed to go 6-2 without Embiid the last couple of weeks. The foundation of the team is still respectable with Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris leading the way. Some of that 6-2 record is drawing mostly teams a couple of games within of .500 as well as the Lakers without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Naturally, the 76ers fell to more talented teams like the Bucks and Clippers without Embiid available.
But the key for Philadelphia remains the defense, which ranks No. 1 in Defensive Rating (102.2) over the last eight games. That will be extremely important against a hot Denver team that ranks No. 1 in Offensive Rating (121.4) over the last eight games.
When it comes to the other side of the matchup, the 76ers rank No. 15 in Offensive Rating while the Nuggets are 26th in Defensive Rating over the last eight games. The 76ers only rank 14th on the season in Offensive Rating, so it is not just a matter of Embiid’s injury, but there is still a significant difference when Embiid is on the court.
The 76ers are plus-11.2 in Offensive Rating with Embiid on the court this season, according to Basketball Reference. That is a greater difference this season in comparison to where the Lakers are with LeBron James (plus-9.5) and where the Nets are with Kevin Durant (plus-6.0).
This team is not reliant on the three-point shot, but its use and efficiency have improved over the last eight games without Embiid. The 76ers are shooting 39.2% from three in the last eight games, which ranks fourth in the NBA in that time. Danny Green has made 13 of his 21 three-point attempts in the last two games, and it is the secondary shooters like him that will need to step up if the 76ers are to outscore the Nuggets.
Philadelphia has not won a game after allowing more than 105 points since before the All-Star break. The Nuggets have scored at least 108 points in eight straight games, including 126 on Sunday in a win over Atlanta.
Nuggets: Harder Than Last Time
These teams met once this season on January 9 in Philadelphia. The Nuggets pulled away in the third quarter on the way to a 115-103 win. Tyrese Maxey led the 76ers with 39 points that day. If you have never heard of Maxey, then you are not alone. He is a reserve who has not cracked double digits in six weeks. His role was only so large that day because the 76ers were without Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Seth Curry.
All of those players except Embiid should be active on Tuesday night, but the Nuggets still have a big advantage with the best player in this matchup: Nikola Jokic. He is averaging 26.9 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 8.5 assists per game in an MVP-caliber season. The Nuggets are plus-43 with Jokic on the court in the last two games.
While the 76ers are fourth in 3P% over the last eight games, the Nuggets are right behind them in fifth place at 39.0%. I already mentioned Denver has the best Offensive Rating in the last eight games. In that same time, Denver also ranks No. 1 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.48), No. 1 in offensive rebound percentage (32.5%), No. 2 in rebound percentage (53.4%), No. 1 in points off turnovers (20.4), and No. 1 in second-chance points (16.8).
The Nuggets are moving the ball beautifully, but this will be a tougher defensive test than the recent schedule has given them.
Philadelphia is 2-5 ATS as a road underdog this year, the worst record for any team with multiple games in that split. For my NBA picks this Tuesday evening, I like the Nuggets to stay hot on offense and score too many points for the 76ers to cover without Embiid.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.