After a chippy Game 3 that saw two (and nearly three) players ejected, the Philadelphia 76ers are on the verge of sweeping the Brooklyn Nets in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals. The 76ers remain the betting favorites for Game 4 in Brooklyn at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday, entering the game as 2 point favorites per DraftKings sportsbook.
Although Joel Embiid appeared to suffer injuries to his knee and back in Game 3, he did not show up on the injury report. Both teams’ starting lineups remain fully intact.
Read on for in-depth analysis of tonight’s Game 4 matchup between the 76ers and the Nets.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets Game 4 Prediction
Game 3 was the game the Nets were supposed to win. Down 2-0, coming back home, they got under the skin of Joel Embiid within the first three minutes and held a five-point lead with just over two minutes to play.
They managed to limit Embiid to just 14 points on 13 shot attempts, and they even got a bit of a lucky break when James Harden was ejected late in the third quarter after a controversial flagrant 2 call.
Harden got ejected after this flagrant 2 foul on Royce O'Neale pic.twitter.com/a2bzAqY1kX
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 21, 2023
Despite all of that, the Nets managed to let the game slip away and Philadelphia now holds a commanding 3-0 lead. I probably don’t have to remind you that no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series. If the 76ers close it out, it would be their first 4-0 sweep since 1985.
I could see Game 4 playing out in one of two ways. Either the Nets play with the desperation of a team on the brink of being swept, and they find a way to send the series back to Philadelphia for Game 5. Or the Nets are emotionally defeated after dropping their most winnable game of the series, they come out flat and the 76ers cruise to a comparatively comfortable victory.
The outcome that would surprise me is another tight, hard-fought battle in which the 76ers find a way to win late in the fourth quarter.
I have written before each of the past three games that history tells us the 76ers are bound to have a letdown game at some point. Before Game 3, I wrote “if the Nets are going to steal one game, my money is on it happening in Game 4.”
I should have been wrong about that. Brooklyn should have won Game 3. Now that Game 4 is their last opportunity to avoid a sweep, I would not be surprised if they pulled it off, but I also would not bet on it.
The Sixers have proven to be a far superior team to this Nets team, and Tyrese Maxey is one of the biggest reasons why. He is leading Philadelphia in scoring this series with 23.7 points per game. With Harden ejected, he took over primary ballhandling duties in the 4th quarter of Game 3 and put the team on his shoulders in the final minutes.
The lightning quick guard scored 10 consecutive points for the 76ers starting at the 3:08 mark, including the decisive go-ahead trey with 44.1 seconds remaining.
Tyrese Maxey with the go-ahead three in the final minute to give the 76ers the lead and ultimately the win!
— Tristan Pharis (@TristanUda) April 21, 2023
With Maxey having moments like that, and the 76ers’ role players hitting shots the way have been, it’s hard to have much confidence in the Nets. Picking between a Nets win and a Sixers cover, I prefer to bet on the latter.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Brooklyn Nets Betting Odds
The 76ers opened as -6 favorites at DraftKings and Caesars, and that line is now at -5.5 across most major sportsbooks as of this writing on Friday afternoon.
That line is 1.5 points higher than the closing line for Game 3, which was 76ers -4.5. Philadelphia squeaked out a last-minute cover in that game with a 102-97 victory.
The 76ers’ moneyline odds opened at -245 and are now at -215, while the Nets’ moneyline has moved from +205 to +185. Expect those lines to fluctuate slightly but they should close around the same numbers.
The public is backing the 76ers once again in Game 4, but not as heavily as in previous games. Philadelphia is getting roughly 65% of the handle against the spread at DraftKings and nearly 70% on the moneyline, per VSiN.
The over/under for Game 4 opened at 208 and has not moved, but it could move about a point in either direction before tipoff. That line is 1.5 points less than the closing line for Game 3, which was 209.5. The under hit easily in that game with a total of 199, and the total was also 31.5 points under the line in Game 2.
Despite the trends from the last two games, the public is betting the over with 76% of the handle at DraftKings.
The implied outcome of these odds is the 76ers winning 106.75-101.25.
- The 76ers are 7-2-1 ATS in their last ten Conference Quarterfinals games, while the Nets are 0-5-1 ATS in their last six.
- The Under is 6-2 in the 76ers’ last eight Conference Quarterfinals games. The Under is also 5-1 in the Nets’ last six home games this season.
- The 76ers are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five games against the Nets.
A big question in Game 4 is whether the Nets will continue to aggressively double team Joel Embiid, or allow Nic Claxton to try to slow him down 1-on-1. The Nets’ have also been getting killed on the glass, and cannot afford to give the 76ers extra possessions if they want to avoid a sweep.
Joel Embiid vs. Nic Claxton
This matchup could also be labeled “Joel Embiid vs. Nets’ double teams” because the Nets have been relentlessly doubling Embiid throughout the entire series. This strategy has been effective at limiting Embiid’s scoring, as the MVP front-runner is averaging “just” 20 points per game in the series (down from his league-leading 33.1 mark in the regular season).
However, Embiid has been mostly effective at passing out of those double-teams and initiating the ball movement that has found the 76ers’ shooters with plenty of open looks or driving lanes.
The Nets’ defense became predictable when they doubled Embiid every time he touched the ball, as soon as he touched it. They made some good adjustments to that defensive strategy in Game 3, bringing doubles from different angles and in some cases waiting for Embiid to start dribbling before bringing over the second defender.
Their defensive approach on Embiid in Game 4 will be a huge factor in the game. If they choose not to double him as aggressively as they have throughout the series – which has not exactly slowed down the Sixers’ offense, even if it has slowed down Embiid – then it will be up to Nic Claxton to try to contain the big man.
There has been no love lost between Embiid and Claxton in this series, as evidenced by their altercation early in Game 3 and Claxton’s subsequent ejection in the 4th quarter for taunting Embiid.
Embiid KICKS Nic Claxton after stepping over him 😳 pic.twitter.com/gsOzepO4lZ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 20, 2023
Nic Claxton EJECTED for taunting after dunk on Embiid 😳 pic.twitter.com/ejAP3ygpTq
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 21, 2023
Regardless of how it impacts the game, this matchup will be fun to watch, but it also could be most important factor in determining the final outcome.
The 76ers’ have been destroying the Nets on the offensive glass in this series, turning a regular season weakness into a postseason strength.
Philadelphia was just 25th in offensive rebounding rate during the regular season, grabbing offensive boards on just 25.8% of opportunities. In this series, they have grabbed those rebounds 36.3% of the time while also limiting Brooklyn to just 17%.
Those extra possessions have helped contribute to Philadelphia having significantly more cracks at the basket than Brooklyn. They have averaged 92.3 field goal attempts per 100 possessions compared to just 84.2 by the Nets, despite the Nets having the advantage in the turnover battle.
The 76ers are also shooting better than the Nets in the series – a 56% eFG% vs. Brooklyn’s 52.8% eFG% — so the Nets can hardly afford to be giving up so many extra possessions.
In an elimination game where the intensity ratchets up even higher, hustle plays like offensive rebounds can make all the difference. If the Nets want to avoid a sweep, they need to find a way to keep the 76ers off the offensive glass and win the rebounding battle.
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineups
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineups
Philadelphia 76ers Injuries: None
Brooklyn Nets Injuries: PG Ben Simmons (O – back/knee)