The Philadelphia 76ers are up 2-0 on the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals as the series moves to Brooklyn for the next two games. The 76ers remain the betting favorite for Game 3, though the line has been cut in half with them being on the road now.
Thankfully there have been no injuries to report on either side in the first two games, so the starting lineups remain at full strength. That makes it a bit easier to make a betting prediction and pick some best bets.
Read on for in-depth analysis of tonight’s Game 3 matchup between the 76ers and the Nets.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets Game 3 Prediction
The Nets thought they had the 76ers on the ropes in Game 2 with a five-point halftime lead, and bettors who backed Brooklyn at +10 must have been feeling pretty good around that time.
In the first minute of the third quarter, it seemed like the Nets were picking up right where they left off at halftime. Then 76ers coach Doc Rivers called a very early timeout that seemed to turn the tide.
Doc Rivers called timeout 1 minute into the 3rd quarter, gave this speech, then the Sixers outscored the Nets 52-33. pic.twitter.com/50yOvZEMu6
— Barstool Philly (@BarstoolPhilly) April 18, 2023
According to some other reports, that clip did not accurately capture what was really said during that timeout.
— Dave Uram (@MrUram) April 18, 2023
Whatever it was, it clearly worked, as the Sixers seemed to flip a switch from that point forward and left the Nets in their dust. They have now taken two pretty good punches from Brooklyn (who had a whopping 65% effective field goal rate in Game 1) and have still taken a stranglehold on this series.
At least the Nets have one good memory from Game 2.
These pics of Cam Johnson's poster on Embiid 😳
(📸: Jesse D. Garrabrant, Mitchell Leff) pic.twitter.com/jptv7zfOUz
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 18, 2023
As we look to handicap Game 3, the only rational argument for backing the Nets at this point is the notion that the 76ers are bound to slip up eventually. The challenge is anticipating when that is going to be. It could be in their first road game, or it could be in Game 4 when the Nets have their backs against the wall and their season is on the brink.
Last year the 76ers took a 3-0 lead on Toronto in the first round and dropped Game 4, then surprisingly dropped Game 5 at home as well. I do not expect a similar letdown this year, but if the Nets are going to steal one game, my money is on it happening in Game 4.
According to DraftKings odds, the most likely outcome right now is the 76ers winning in four games (+120 odds). The odds of a five-game series are at +180. The 76ers had the fifth-best road record against the spread this season at 23-18, and were 13-8 as road favorites (sixth-best). That information only reinforces my pick that Philadelphia wins and covers in Game 3.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets Betting Odds
The 76ers opened as just -3.5 favorites at DraftKings and at -4.5 elsewhere, and that line is now at -5 at DraftKings as of this writing on Wednesday afternoon.
Oddsmakers are valuing the Nets’ home court advantage at roughly five points after the closing line on the first two games in Philly was -8.5 and -10, respectively. The 76ers covered both of those lines, so the drop to -5 in Brooklyn is a bit more than expected.
The 76ers’ moneyline odds opened at -165 and are up to -195, while the Nets’ moneyline has moved from +140 to +165.
The public is all over the 76ers in this matchup, as over 90% of the handle against the spread and on the moneyline is on the favorites, per VSiN.
The over/under for this matchup opened at 209 and has not moved more than a half point in either direction. It is currently 209.5.
That line is down from the last two games, which closed at 213.5 and 212.5, respectively. Considering Game 2 was one of only a handful of games this season in which both teams scored less than 100 points, it’s not surprising that the line came down for Game 3. The public is viewing Game 2 as an aberration as they have put over 70% of the money on the over at DraftKings.
The implied outcome of these odds is the 76ers winning 107.25-102.25.
- The 76ers are 7-2 ATS in their last nine Conference Quarterfinals games, while the Nets are 0-5 ATS in their last five.
- The Under is 5-2 in the 76ers’ last seven Conference Quarterfinals games. The Under is also 4-1 in the Nets’ last five home games this season.
- The 76ers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games against the Nets.
The 76ers want to see a better offensive performance from James Harden in Game 3, while the Nets need their emerging star in Mikal Bridges to have a breakout playoff moment. At the end of the day, the team that shoots the best from three-point range is likely to come away with a win.
James Harden vs. Mikal Bridges
Harden and Bridges are probably the two most important players for their respective teams, and they happen to match up on each other most of the time that both are on the floor (at least, Bridges matches up defensively on Harden, though Harden often hides on Spencer Dinwiddie defensively).
Before you call me crazy for saying that Harden is more important than Joel Embiid for the 76ers, let me explain. I’m not saying that Harden is a better or more valuable player than Embiid – just that his performance is more important to the Sixers’ success. Part of the reason for that is that we know what we’re getting from Embiid, while Harden’s performance has been more unpredictable.
The Nets’ length defensively has bothered Harden so far in this series, particularly around the rim. Harden has scored just one bucket at the rim so far in this series, and he was just 3-of-13 overall (2-of-8 from three) in Game 2, finishing with a meager eight points. He also has yet to visit the free throw line in the first two games, an extremely uncommon occurrence for a player that routinely is among the league leaders in free throw attempts.
As the playoffs continue, the 76ers will need Harden to score more efficiently while also being the quarterback of the offense. He has done the latter job well against the Nets through two games, but a better offensive output from him over these next two games on the road would be a tremendous help to Philadelphia.
On the other end, the Nets might need an offensive explosion from their most dangerous scorer in Bridges if they want to avoid a sweep. In particular, they need Bridges to step up in clutch situations, particularly in the second half.
Over the last two games, the Nets have had one of their top players put up some big numbers in the first half (23 by Bridges in Game 1, 22 by Cam Johnson in Game 2). Bridges and Johnson then scored just seven and six points, respectively, in the second half of those games. Brooklyn needs Bridges to find a way to overcome the 76ers’ second-half defense and be a more efficient scorer in crunch time.
If either Harden or Bridges can excel offensively in this game, they will give their team a significant edge in the final outcome.
Live by the three, die by the three.
The Nets died by the three in Game 1, allowing the 76ers to hit a franchise playoff record 21 three pointers on 48.8% shooting.
In Game 2, the Nets’ strong first half was fueled in part by going 8-for-22 (36.4%) from long range, including four by the aforementioned Johnson. The 76ers were just 4-for-16 in that half.
But that script was flipped in the second half, when it was the Nets who shot just 25% (5-for-20) while the 76ers made seven threes on 19 attempts (36.8%).
If the Nets maintain their strategy of double-teaming Joel Embiid every time he touches the ball, they are going to continue giving up open looks to the 76ers’ three-point shooters. If guys like Maxey, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker and De’Anthony Melton are hitting those looks (not to mention James Harden), Philadelphia will be nearly impossible for Brooklyn to defend.
On the other, the Nets need to shoot well from three to keep up with the Sixers’ high-powered offense.
The team that wins that three-point battle is likely to win this game, and if that’s the 76ers, their chances to cover the spread are that much better.
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineups
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineups
Philadelphia 76ers Injuries: None
Brooklyn Nets Injuries: PG Ben Simmons (O – back/knee)