Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to April 3 inclusive:
Really, it doesn’t matter too much whether or not the Philadelphia 76ers finish in last place or next-to-last. One way or the other, they’ll be getting a Top 5 pick at the NBA Draft, and there are at least six blue-chip prospects available. So you can understand if the Sixers weren’t too keen on breaking the league record for consecutive losses. They avoided their 27th straight defeat with a 123-98 blowout of the Detroit Pistons (–6 away) that pretty much everyone saw coming.
So what kind of effort will we see from the Sixers on Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET) when they visit the Boston Celtics? Probably not a winning one; the NBA betting lines have the C’s laying 10 points with a total of 208. But Philadelphia is 6-3 ATS in its past nine games, and Boston is on its own six-game losing streak at 1-4-1 ATS. Unleash the tanks!
Mullens’ Bad Tire
It’s been fun to follow the Sixers (16-59 SU, 30-45 ATS) during this late-season resurgence. The market had to bottom out on them at some point, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve been playing better since adding both Henry Sims (16.4 PER) and Byron Mullens (16.3 PER) at the trade deadline while getting rid of Evan Turner (13.2 PER). Okay, they also gave up Spencer Hawes (15.3 PER) at the deadline, but that’s still a net positive for Philadelphia where a big fat negative was expected.
Unfortunately, Mullens sprained his left ankle last week and didn’t play in Wednesday’s 123-93 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats (–8.5 away). Neither did Arnett Moultrie (6.7 PER), who was suspended five games for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. That means more playing time for rookie Brandon Davies (6.2 PER). Yay? Granted, we’re talking about back-up minutes in the paint here, but Philly’s a better bet if Mullens can suit up on Friday.
While the Sixers are virtually guaranteed a premium lottery pick, the Celtics (23-52 SU, 36-37-2 ATS) are tied with the Utah Jazz for the fourth-worst record in the league, and if they remain fourth from last, they’ll have about a 99-percent chance at one of the vaunted Top 6 picks in the draft. Fifth from last? That likelihood drops to 92 percent. Doesn’t seem like too much to get all worked up over.
But that doesn’t mean the Celtics haven’t taken their foot off the gas pedal just a wee bit. Let’s take a look at these effective field-goal percentage numbers, for and against, pre- and post-All Star:
Pre: 47.6 percent for, 49.0 percent against
Post: 46.3 percent for, 53.1 percent against
That’s a pretty big increase in eFG% against, and that’s what you’d expect from a team that might not be giving it the proverbial nine-ninths on defense. The OVER, by the way, is 12-7 in Boston’s last 19 games. That includes Wednesday’s 118-92 loss to the Washington Wizards (–8.5 at home, OVER 199.5), which SG Avery Bradley (12.2 PER) missed with a sore right Achilles. Bradley is one of Boston’s best defenders, so it’d be a pretty good idea to get word on his status for Friday’s game before placing your bets.
I don’t get the same luxury with my picks, but I don’t feel too bad taking Philadelphia here. Ten points is just too many points; don’t forget, the Celtics were only –4 at home on Jan. 29 when they lost 95-94 to the Sixers without Rajon Rondo (14.8 PER) in the lineup. Is Rondo worth six points to the C’s? He’s a minus-1.8 in Simple Rating at 82games, so I’m going to say no.
NBA Pick: Take the Sixers +10 (–109) at SBOBET