The first round of the NBA Playoffs officially gets underway on Saturday, April 15 when the Philadelphia 76ers host the Brooklyn Nets. The No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia is the heavy betting favorite not only to win Game 1 but also to win the series against the No. 6 seed Brooklyn.
Both teams enter this series with their starting lineups mostly intact. The only noteworthy player on the injury report is Ben Simmons, who was ruled out for the rest of the season on March 28 with back and knee injuries. Sorry Sixers fans, but there will be no postseason Simmons reunion this year.
Considering Simmons played only 42 games this season, and missed the final 24 games, his absence should not have a major impact on the betting prediction or best bet picks.
Read on for in-depth analysis of this Game 1 matchup between the Nets and the 76ers.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers Betting Odds
The 76ers opened as -8 favorites at DraftKings in this matchup, and that line has inched up to -8.5 as of this writing on Friday afternoon.
The same story is true on the moneyline, where the 76ers’ opening line of -330 is now at -350. Some sportsbooks have had it as low as -385 (BetRivers and Unibet). The Nets’ moneyline odds opened at +275 and are now at +290 at DraftKings (+300 at BetRivers).
The public is betting heavily on Philadelphia, as nearly 80% of the money being bet against the spread at DraftKings is on the favorite, per VSiN. The handle is even heavier on the 76ers’ moneyline, which is getting over 90% of the money at DraftKings.
The over/under for this game opened at 216 and has come down a bit to 214.5 despite 80% of the handle being on the over.
The implied outcome of these odds is the 76ers winning 111.5-103.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers Series Betting Odds
The 76ers are heavy favorites to win the series, and the most likely outcome according to the odds is Sixers in five.
DraftKings currently has the 76ers at -900 to win the series, while you can get the Nets at +600. The odds on the series lasting five games is at +195, followed by +240 odds on a four-game series, +320 for six games, and +370 for seven games.
If you’re interested in betting the series odds, you can get slightly better value on betting the series score. While the odds for a five-game series are at +195, the odds of the 76ers winning 4-1 is at +210. Similarly, the odds of the Sixers winning 4-2 are at +400, slightly juicier than the +320 odds on a six-game series. Assuming you like the 76ers to win the series, those bets make more sense than just betting the number of games.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers Prediction
My pick: Nets +8.5, Over 214.5
Don’t get the wrong idea. The Philadelphia 76ers are far superior to the current version of the Brooklyn Nets. They should win this series easily, and it would be surprising if the Nets won more than one game against them.
That doesn’t mean the Nets cannot play competitive games against the 76ers, and if they have any chance of winning a game on the road, it’s going to be in the first game of the series in the unfamiliar 1 p.m. timeslot.
I do not expect the Nets to win this game, but I would not be surprised if they keep the game closer than expected and manage to a cover a somewhat generous 8.5-point spread.
There is only relevant game between these teams to look back on, which happens to be the first game the Nets played after trading away Kevin Durant and acquiring Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson from Phoenix. Philadelphia won that game 101-98 on Feb. 11, as Joel Embiid dominated with 37 points and 13 rebounds on a 69.4% effective field goal percentage.
That matchup cannot tell us too much about how this series might play out, considering the Nets’ new-look lineup had nary a chance to develop any chemistry. It was also the second night of a back-to-back for the 76ers, who looked sluggish early in the game. At that point in the season, Tyrese Maxey was also still coming off the bench as coach Doc Rivers was trying to find the ideal role for the ascending guard in his rotations.
Since remaking their roster at the trade deadline, the Nets are 12-15 and in the bottom half of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They are 23rd in offensive rating at 113.2 and 17th in defensive rating at 114.7, for an overall net rating of -1.5 (19th).
Philadelphia owns the second-best net rating over that span (5.8) and has owned that spot for most of the season. After a disappointing 12-12 start, the 76ers have put together the league’s best record since then at 42-16.
The Nets do pose some matchup problems for the 76ers, as we will discuss in more detail below. In particular, with a lineup full of long, athletic wing defenders, they will switch on just about every screen. That should not be a huge problem for Philadelphia throughout the series, but it could realistically take them a game to adjust to that type of defense, creating an advantage for Brooklyn in Game 1.
- The 76ers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven Conference Quarterfinals games, six of which came last year against Toronto with largely the same lineup as this year’s team.
- The Nets are 7-2 ATS in their last nine road games
- The Under is 4-1 in the 76ers’ last five Conference Quarterfinals games.
If the Nets want to have a chance in this game, they need to find ways to take advantage of their superior length and athleticism compared to the 76ers – it’s one of the only advantages they have. The two biggest areas where that can come into play is when they switch defensively on screens and when they get out in transition.
James Harden vs. Nets’ switch-heavy defense
After two seasons as the runner-up for the NBA’s MVP award, Joel Embiid is expected to win the MVP this season. However, James Harden might be the key to the 76ers’ success in the playoffs.
Harden’s ability to put pressure on the Nets’ defense and make the right decisions when the Nets switch on pick-and-rolls will be critical in this game.
The Nets’ rotation is deep with long and athletic wing players: Mikal Bridges (6-6), Cam Johnson (6-8), Spencer Dinwiddie (6-6), Dorian Finney-Smith (6-7), Royce O’Neal (6-6), and Joe Harris (6-6). Even starting center Nic Claxton (6-11) is effective guarding the perimeter on switches.
When the Nets switch, it’s on Harden as the 76ers’ primary ball-handler to attack the defense and either finish at the rim or find the open and cutters and shooters. He did this successfully in the Feb. 11 matchup, finishing with 29 points and six assists.
Harden’s execution as a playmaker will be the biggest factor determining if the Nets can keep the game close or if the 76ers run away with it.
Another benefit of the Nets’ length and athleticism should be transition scoring, but it hasn’t exactly played out that way in the 27 games since the Durant trade. The Nets are just 28th in fastbreak points per 100 possessions during that span. They have also played at the seventh-slowest pace in the league with the current version of their roster.
If the Nets can find ways to push the pace in this game, the Sixers’ transition defense should be exploitable. They have allowed the third-most fastbreak points per 100 possessions this season.
A big reason for that is that Embiid is such a focal point offensively. Embiid is notorious for being slow to get back defensively, and when he misses the 76ers are vulnerable against transition scoring opportunities.
In the Feb. 11 matchup, the Nets got an absurd 22.5% of their offense from transition opportunities. That number could have been even higher if they had hit more of their transition threes – they went 13-of-40 from deep in that game.
Despite their lack of success in transition so far during the Bridges era, the Nets are going to look to push the pace in this game. Their ability to capitalize on those opportunities, and the 76ers’ ability to prevent them, will be a big factor in how close this game ends up being.
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineups
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineups
Brooklyn Nets Injuries: PG Ben Simmons (O – back/knee)
Philadelphia 76ers Injuries: SG De’Anthony Melton (Q – calf)