Embiid sprained the LCL in his right knee in Game 3 against the Nets and missed Game 4. He is expected to miss at least Game 1 against the Celtics, and possibly more.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics Prediction Gsmr 2
My pick: Celtics -10.5, Under 213.5
The 76ers and Celtics have been on a collision course all season, especially once Milwaukee secured the No. 1 seed. With the Bucks surprisingly eliminated, the winner of this series will be an overwhelming favorite to reach the NBA Finals.
Now that this highly anticipated series is finally here, we should be talking about how the Celtics are going to defend Joel Embiid, who scored a combined 93 points (32-of-46 shooting) in his last two games against Boston. Instead, we have to talk about yet another playoff injury suffered by Embiid, which is casting a huge shadow over this series.
As Embiid’s history of playing through injuries and pain shows, it can be fluid depending on his progress. He has been able to do some individual spot-up shooting the past several days and will be evaluated daily. https://t.co/dPwOzhKYDc
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 29, 2023
Without Embiid, the 76ers don’t have much of a shot to keep up with Boston. The Celtics went 3-1 against Philadelphia in the regular season, and the 76ers needed a 52-point performance by Embiid (on 20-of-25 shooting!) to get that two-point win – in a game that Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III both missed.
Even after the Celtics had some warts exposed in the first round against Atlanta, it is hard to have confidence in the 76ers even if Embiid were fully healthy. The 76ers have not advanced past the second round since 2001, and they have lost eight of their last nine playoff games against Boston in two series in 2018 and 2020.
The 76ers have been surprisingly effective without Embiid – perhaps there is some backup quarterback syndrome going on there. There is no doubt they will play hard and play with urgency to make up for the absence of their MVP, which might give them a chance to cover a double-digit spread, but I would not bet on that.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics Betting Odds
The uncertainty around Joel Embiid’s status was baked into the opening line for this game at Celtics -6.5. With Embiid looking unlikely to play, the line has shifted to Celtics -10. Similarly, the Celtics’ opening moneyline odds of -255 have jumped to -450, while the 76ers’ moneyline has moved from +215 to +360.
The over/under for this game has not been affected by Embiid’s status. The opening line of 214.5 has only moved one point to 213.5, which is unlikely to be related to Embiid.
- The Celtics are 5-0 ATS in their last five games against the 76ers.
- The Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last six home games, while the 76ers are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four road games.
- The Under is 13-3 in the Celtics’ last six 16 Conference Semifinals games and 8-2 in the 76ers’ last 10 Conference Semifinals games.
With Embiid most likely missing this game, the biggest keys to watch are how James Harden and Tyrese Maxey pick up the offensive slack for the 76ers.
James Harden vs. Marcus Smart
The 76ers cannot afford another James Harden playoff letdown in this series, especially if Joel Embiid is out. They need their second superstar to play like it if they want to have a chance, regardless of Embiid’s status.
There was some concern in the Brooklyn series that Harden would struggle to penetrate against the Nets’ long, athletic defenders like Mikal Bridges. It was encouraging that he was able to get a step on those defenders pretty consistently, but his finishing at the rim was horrendous – he shot 7-of-30 from the paint in the series.
Boston’s roster features even more long, athletic wing defenders than Brooklyn’s. During the four regular season matchups, Marcus Smart was the primary defender on Harden most of the time, but the Celtics typically switch 1-through-4 and Derrick White, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will also match up with Harden.
Harden needs to score efficiently and frequently while also being the 76ers’ primary playmaker. If he continues to struggle finishing in the paint, this game – let alone the series – will not be very competitive.
Tyrese Maxey vs. Derrick White
To say Maxey struggled against the Celtics this season would be putting it lightly. He averaged just 10 points on 35.4% shooting and 21.4% from three. Derrick White was the primary defender on Maxey and held him to just 7-of-22 shooting (2-of-7 from three) when they were matched up.
Maxey came up huge for the 76ers against Brooklyn. He led the team in scoring and almost single-handedly brought them back in the fourth quarter of Game 3, scoring 10 consecutive points including a clutch go-ahead three.
However, Maxey struggled a bit in Game 4 when Embiid was out. He had benefitted from Embiid drawing constant double-teams and finding Maxey for open threes or creating space for him to attack the basket. Without Embiid, Maxey had his worst shooting performance of the series – 6-of-20 overall and 1-of-4 from three.
Even if Embiid ends up playing, the 76ers need Maxey to be an efficient second or third option offensively like he has been most of the season, except against the Celtics. If White’s defense continues to stymie Maxey, the Sixers are going to struggle to keep up with Boston.
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineups
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineups
Philadelphia 76ers Injuries: Joel Embiid (D – knee)
Boston Celtics Injuries: Danilo Gallinari (O – knee)