The Philadelphia 76ers open the season on the road against the Boston Celtics in a matchup between historic rivals. Both teams notably upgraded over the off-season and currently hold Finals or bust expectations.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics Betting Odds
Despite Celtics center Robert Williams being unavailable due to injury, Boston is still a slight favorite. The spread has settled at -2.5 Celtics with their moneyline being offered around -145. For Philadelphia’s +125 moneyline to be profitable long-term, they would have to theoretically win this game at least 45% of the time.
The over under total of 214.5 points is on the smaller side, and it’s worth noting that the under would have hit for this specific line in three of their four head to head matchups last season.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics Prediction
Because of the presence of elite defense and offensive superstars, the over under is murky and undesirable. However, Philadelphia’s plus moneyline offers value and is the best bet here.
During the NBA Finals, Robert Williams produced 2.8 BPG and an absurd 40 Net Rating. He is a cornerstone of Boston’s formidable defense because he effectively deters shots around the rim while maintaining the ability to survive on switches. In addition, his status as a lob threat enhances the pick and roll and punishes defenses for overcommitting to stopping jump shots.
Williams’ injury heavily impacts Boston because the only viable option they now possess to defend Joel Embiid is Al Horford, who recently turned 36-years-old. Backup center Blake Griffin cannot defend even an average offensive center, much less an MVP candidate coming off a 30.6 PPG season. The Celtics will be in a grim situation should Horford get into foul trouble, which is likely considering Embiid attempted 11.8 free throws per game last season. Boston may struggle rebounding without Williams too because Horford isn’t dominant on the glass while Embiid is proficient in this area.
Philadelphia assuredly holds the advantage in the paint and on the glass, but they can also counter Boston’s perimeter-oriented offense. James Harden looks rejuvenated after slimming down and finally having completely healed hamstrings. Due to this change, Harden’s improved burst and separation on drives will raise his isolation scoring ability. He also upgrades teammate shot quality to a degree that is only matched by a handful of players. While reigning DPOY Marcus Smart is a daunting opponent, Harden’s size and surprising strength deem him one of the few guards who can actually drive through Smart.
Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris are overqualified as third and fourth scoring options, and PJ Tucker is an elite 3&D option. Philadelphia’s bench offense is also now stabilized with the new additions of De’Anthony Melton (10.8 PPG, 37.4 3PT%) and Montrezl Harrell (13.1 PPG). Overall, the 76ers can surround Embiid with four outstanding shooters and force the Celtics to pick their poison.
The Achilles Heel of this Boston squad last season was a combination of careless turnovers and stretches of lifeless offense prone to frequent isolation jump shots. How do the Celtics win this game? Horford limits Embiid to a reasonable box score, Smart forces Harden to play off-ball, and Tatum and Brown do not constantly settle for contested off the dribble attempts while turning the ball over. However, considering Williams’ injury and Philadelphia’s roster, I believe the 76ers win this game around 53-55% of the time, which makes their plus odds tantalizing.
- 76ers are 7-1 ATS in the last 8 meetings
- Under is 5-1 in the last 6 meetings in Boston
Which lead option will propel their respective team to victory – Jayson Tatum or Joel Embiid? Their matchup against the likely main defender is found below, as well as its implications.
Jayson Tatum vs. PJ Tucker
PJ Tucker was a key cog in Milwaukee’s 2021 championship team and Miami’s 2022 Eastern Conference Finals squad because he often neutralizes opposing wings. He’s near impossible to back down and still maintains enough lateral quickness at 37-years-old to defend at a high level. Tucker will mostly mark Tatum and attempt to force the superstar out of his rhythm.
Tatum is at his best when defenders are not overbearing and provide him a sliver of space to utilize because excessive contact affects him more than most superstars. Tucker is a physical defender who knows to bump him before he can start his perfected offensive move. If Tatum cannot fight through this contact or draw fouls, then Boston’s offense may struggle to keep pace with Philadelphia.
Jayson Tatum has been guarded by PJ Tucker for 127 possessions this season (regular season and playoffs).
He has scored 15 points in those 127 possessions. pic.twitter.com/iiM6G8mRyC
— StatMuse (@statmuse) May 22, 2022
Joel Embiid vs. Al Horford
It’s inevitable that Embiid will score, but Horford must accomplish two goals for Boston to stand a chance inside. First, it’s essential that Horford is disciplined on defense and doesn’t commit foolish fouls. Embiid would mercilessly shred Blake Griffin and Noah Vonleh, so the Celtics have to play Horford as much as possible. He’s historically been a decent defender against Embiid, and Boston only needs Embiid to work for his shots without being bailed out from free throws.
On offense, Horford would provide more impact as a pick and pop option rather than a pick and roll partner. He is a respectable outside shooter, and not being entrenched in the paint would draw Embiid, a dominant rim protector, away from the basket. As a result, the Celtics could drive far more efficiently and own superior shot quality. Of all the matchups in this game, this is arguably the most important for both teams.
Philadelphia 76ers Starting Lineup
Boston Celtics Starting Lineups
Philadelphia 76ers Injuries:
Boston Celtics Injuries: Robert Williams (O), Marcus Smart (P), Malcolm Brogdon (P)