Somebody needs to remind the Philadelphia 76ers that they’re tanking. Philly has beaten the NBA odds in three straight games, and the Chicago Bulls are coming to town on a three-game losing streak.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 9: 46-42-4 ATS, 4-8 Totals
Something strange has happened to the Philadelphia 76ers: They’re beating the basketball odds again. We wrote Philly off for dead after the trade deadline deals that sent Michael Carter-Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks, and brought in Isaiah Canaan from the Houston Rockets to replace him. Then Canaan dropped 31 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder (–15 at home) in a 123-118 overtime loss. That was the start of a three-game ATS streak for the Sixers. Hey, what can we tell you. Basketball happens.
Philadelphia will try to make it four in a row Wednesday night (7:00 p.m. ET) at the expense of the Chicago Bulls, who are down three men and have dropped three straight SU and ATS. We tried to get fancy and bet UNDER 190.5 in Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs (–10 at home), but it turned into a shootout instead, as Tony Parker scored 32 points in a 116-105 San Antonio victory. Wednesday’s NBA odds at press time have Chicago laying 5.5 points on the road with a total of 187.
Given the divergent ATS paths these two teams are on, we’re obviously inclined to put Philadelphia (14-49 SU, 32-29-2 ATS) in our NBA picks and forgo the total. But it’s not a slam-dunk by any means. We still like the logic behind fading the Sixers; as disappointing as Williams (12.9 PER) was in his second year in Philly, he was better than Canaan (12.9 PER), even after you factor in that 31-point explosion.
For evidence, we turn to the Box Plus/Minus stats at Basketball Reference. Williams was a minus-1.2 BPM (minus-1.9 offense, plus-0.6 defense) in his 41 games with the Sixers this year, while Canaan is a minus-2.1 BPM (plus-1.3 offense, minus-3.4 defense) in nine games, all of them starting assignments. Of course, past performance doesn’t guarantee future results. Canaan has only played 56 games in the NBA, so maybe we’re learning that he’s got some game.
Maybe. Those 31 points against Oklahoma City (all of them scored before OT) were easily the most of Canaan’s career, but he did have a couple of strong games for Houston as a substitute starter, putting up 24 points against the Sacramento Kings and another 21 against the Golden State Warriors. Still, these were the exception rather than the norm, and none of Cannan’s other eight starts for Philadelphia was particularly remarkable. Besides, he’s questionable for Wednesday’s game with a respiratory infection. What if Ish Smith (12.0 PER, minus-5.8 BPM in Philly) gets the start instead? The mind boggles.
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We might not be sold on the Sixers, but Chicago (39-26 SU, 29-36 ATS) isn’t in much of a position to take advantage. It’s easy enough to argue that the Bulls are a better basketball pick without Derrick Rose (16.0 PER, minus-1.3 BPM) in the lineup, but things got considerably worse when Jimmy Butler (21.3 PER, plus-4.7 BPM) was knocked out with a sprained elbow. It also looks like Taj Gibson (15.9 PER, plus-0.4 BPM) could miss another game for Chicago – he’s questionable with a sprained ankle.
This is a scrappy and resilient bunch, though. Tony Snell (11.2 PER) and Nikola Mirotic (16.7 PER) have both had their moments during this three-game slump; Mirotic in particular has played very well in Gibson’s absence, scoring 20.8 points with 8.0 rebounds in 30.7 minutes per game this month. That’s helped get the OVER to the pay window, but the remaining reserve corps is thin enough to keep the Bulls from cashing in ATS. We’re going to have to give Philadelphia a tepid and conditional endorsement for Wednesday night withour NBA picks. May the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take the 76ers (if Canaan plays) at BetOnline