The Boston Celtics remain nearly double-digit betting favorites against the Philadelphia 76ers despite dropping Game 1 of the series at home. The pressure is on the Celtics as they host Game 2 on Wednesday night.
The 76ers stole home-court advantage in Game 1 thanks to a vintage performance by James Harden, who tied his playoff career-high with 45 points. Joel Embiid missed Game 1 and remains on the injury report for Philadelphia, so his status bears monitoring before placing any bets on Game 2.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics Game 2 Prediction
The 76ers had no business winning Game 1, and I am not just saying that because I picked Celtics -10.5.
In the first quarter, Boston made it look effortless to pick apart the 76ers’ defense without Embiid protecting the rim. They got to the rim at will and scored 26 of their 38 points in the paint, which led to an absurd 17-of-20 from the field.
Celtics showing off the ball movement early 🔥
— NBA (@NBA) May 1, 2023
JAYLEN BROWN JAM ‼️
— NBA (@NBA) May 1, 2023
The 76ers were only able keep the game close because of a heroic performance by Harden, who began his 45-point night with 16 in the first quarter. Still, the Celtics should have been able to overcome Harden’s big night, but they failed to execute efficiently in the second half.
Give 76ers’ coach Doc Rivers credit for making in-game adjustments to slow down Boston’s offense. Mixing in a zone defense stifled Boston’s wings and helped to create turnovers, which ended up being a huge difference in the game. Rivers seemed to have a coaching edge over Joe Mazzulla, which is a nightmare scenario for Celtics fans.
Harden was fantastic.
The Celtics deserved to lose. They’ll do the whole “blah blah blah need a better effort” routine but the D was pathetic, the carelessness with the ball against a BAD defensive team all game was inexcusable, and Doc worked Joe Mazz like a speedbag.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) May 2, 2023
The question entering Game 2 is what aspects of Game 1 are sustainable. What can we expect as an encore from James Harden? What adjustments will the Celtics make to exploit the 76ers’ defense when they play zone?
I am assuming Embiid misses Game 2, which seems to be the most likely scenario. It’s worth waiting until there is more clarity on Embiid’s status before placing any bets, but I’m not sure it really changes anything as we don’t know how Embiid will look once he returns.
I didn’t expect the Sixers to win Game 1, and I would be even more surprised if Boston doesn’t bounce back to take Game 2. However, the Sixers looked like the tougher and more experienced team in Game 1, and that should carry over into Game 2.
James Harden (45 PTS) yelling at his celebrating teammates after the win in Boston
"It's one game, bro! It's one game!" pic.twitter.com/usCHw29k7w
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) May 2, 2023
I expect to see some aspects of Game 1 repeat in Game 2, including another big game by James Harden (just maybe not 45 points big). It will be enough for the 76ers to cover again, but Jayson Tatum will find a way to close it out this time.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics Betting Odds
The Celtics opened as -9 favorites at home despite losing Game 1 as double-digit favorites. Oddsmakers clearly do not expect a repeat of the Game 1 outcome – or anything close to it.
The Celtics’ moneyline odds opened at -390 and have moved to -450, while the Sixers’ moneyline has moved from +320 at the open to +360 as of this writing. Compared to the Game 1 odds of Celtics -560 and Sixers +430, the moneyline odds for Game 2 have shifted more in the Sixers’ direction than the point spread.
The over/under for Game 2 opened at 217.5 and is up slightly to 218.5. That line is also up from the Game 1 line, which was 215, and the total for Game 1 ended up being 234. Depending on the action on the total, we could see it move higher before tipoff. For some context, the totals for the last three regular season matchups between these teams were all 226 or higher, although the under hit in all three of those games.
- The 76ers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven games (including five in the playoffs), and 4-0-1 in their last five road games (three in the playoffs).
- The Celtics are 5-0 ATS in their last five games following a straight-up loss.
- The Over is 5-0 in the Celtics last five games overall.
The Celtics need to exploit the 76ers’ lack of rim protection, while the 76ers need to stay hot from three.
Points in the paint
As noted above, the Celtics were able to attack the rim at will early in Game 1, as the 76ers had absolutely no rim protection with Joel Embiid out. They ended up out-scoring Philadelphia 66-42 in the paint, but most of that damage came in the first half – they only won the that category by six points in the second half.
The Celtics cannot afford to let their offense stagnate the way it did when the 76ers played zone defense. If they want to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole, the Celtics need to continue moving the ball and penetrating to exploit the 76ers’ poor interior defense.
These were two of the best three-point shooting teams in the regular season. Philadelphia led the league in three-point shooting percentage at 38.7%, while Boston was sixth at 37.7% but on a much higher volume (42.6 attempts per game versus Philadelphia’s 32.6). Both teams are shooting over 40% from deep during the playoffs.
The 76ers had the edge in Game 1, making seven more threes than Boston. De’Anthony Melton going 4-for-4 in the second quarter helped them stay alive as Jayson Tatum was exploding for 20 points in the frame. And of course Harden’s three with 8.4 seconds remaining was the final dagger.
If the Sixers can stay hot from three, they have a legitimate chance to steal another game in Boston, and at the very least should be able to cover the 9-point spread.
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineups
Brooklyn Nets Starting Lineups
Philadelphia 76ers Injuries: Joel Embiid (D – knee)
Boston Celtics Injuries: Danilo Gallinari (O – knee)