Philadelphia 76ers -2.5 vs. Brooklyn Nets 1st Quarter – 1 Unit
The 76ers have been a monstrous first-quarter bet over the past two years. If we just isolate the games that Joel Embiid has played, the 76ers have covered the 1st quarter spread in 74 of 121 regular-season games over the past two seasons, good for a 61% hit rate.
Embiid I think is the principal cause. I think he’s underrated. When people rank him as one of the 10-15 best players, I’m never sure if I’m missing something obvious or just entirely too bullish on what a 7′ post player can mean in today’s game. Like Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid is 1 of 1. Except rather than the beautiful game of one hand dump-offs for which critics laud Jokic, Embiid’s unique skill set is much more rudimentary. He gets the ball. He scores the ball. No player can hold a candle to his array of moves on and near the block. Look how LeBron James faired in this past Sunday’s All-Star game.
So teams have two options. Accept that Embiid will make easy work of their post defender throughout the game. Or sell out to prevent him from catching the ball in dangerous spots.
The latter option opens up the floor for the rest of the Sixers. The former option can be viable for the entire game because Embiid will wear down, but is especially exploitable early when Embiid is on a full-tank. Embiid has proven vulnerable to fatigue late in games, and this weakness in his game is exactly what has made the 76ers such a profitable bet in the 1st quarter.
Oddsmakers can shade a Quarter Spread slightly one direction or another, but 90% of the line will be derived from the overall Game spread. Here I think the 76ers have a little value on the game spread – which I’ll explain in a second – and a TON of value in the 1st Quarter.
Philadelphia 76ers -8.5 vs. Brooklyn Nets – .25 Units
Despite all their roster turnover the past two years, the Brooklyn Nets largely present the same problem to their opponents. They out-fun teams. Nets HC, Kenny Atkinson has installed an infectious style of basketball, predicated on running and gunning. Among Eastern Conference teams only the Hawks and the Wizards play at a faster pace. The difference between those teams and the Nets is the Nets actually play defense as well, ranking 2nd in Defensive Effective FG% according to Cleaning the Glass’s filtered statistics.
The problem for the Nets is against teams their pace isn’t a fix for their lack of scoring options. Currently – with Irving reportedly re-aggravating his shoulder and set to miss more time – the Nets need more from PG Spencer Dinwiddie than he can reasonably provide.
Moreover, with the 76ers well-rested coming into this affair, the fun factor advantage will not help the Nets as much as it might during the regular doldrums of the NBA schedule.
The 76ers have the best home record in the NBA at 25-2, covering 59% of those games. The 76ers home/road splits are incredibly stark and I think most if not all of it is attributable to Embiid’s engagement and energy level on defense. Jojo at home this season has the best defensive rating of any player in the league: 96.9, which is a late 1990’s type number. Conversely, when on the road, Embiid has just the 34th best Defensive rating.
With Embiid and the 76ers well-rested and in their preferred venue, I think they make easy work of the Nets, holding on to win comfortably after establishing a big early lead.
Detroit Pistons +13 vs. Milwaukee Bucks – .1 Unit
I have been the captain of the “Bucks annihilate bad teams” bandwagon for months now. On my twitter, I drew a chart of the Bucks ATS Win% compared to their opponents SU Win%. The correlation is uncanny. Against the best teams with a 65 Win% or higher, the Bucks have just a 50% ATS record. Conversely, when facing a team with a below 40 Win % – such as these Detroit Pistons – the Bucks have a 65% ATS win %.
So why am I bucking this trend here? It’s too many points! I think the market has caught on.
I thought the line was about right when it opened at Bucks -11.5 earlier in the week. After yesterday’s news that longtime Pistons PG Reggie Jackson got bought out and is set to join the Clippers, this line ballooned up to -13. While Reggie Jackson leaving depletes the Pistons of even more talent, talent hasn’t been their principal problem. The Pistons this season have been entirely rudderless. Now they have a clear identity – a team rebuilding for the future. In this context, I think their lesser-known Pistons come out strong to try and make a name for themselves. At this point, the Pistons have nothing to lose. Not a big play for me, but I have to tell you I’ve got a hunch they keep this close.
Bonus trend: teams getting more than 11 points coming off 4+ days of rest are 60% ATS all-time (25-17).