The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves in a precarious position as they enter Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semi-final series against the Boston Celtics. They will be without Joel Embiid, not only their biggest weapon but also a star BetOnline patrons might reasonably push as a Most Valuable Player candidate.
So what do the Sixers do? Well, the answer is that they will have to improvise as they visit the TD Garden for the opener, which tips off at 7:30 PM ET.
There are various reasons the Sixers may find themselves compromised without their center. One of them is that Embiid got 24 free throw attempts in the four-game sweep of Brooklyn, making 23 of those tries.
James Harden, who has spent this season being the major playmaker helping Embiid lead the league in scoring, and who has made an art of getting to the line in his career, did so only eleven times in the four games.
Harden, we imagine, will have to become more of a focal point from a scoring perspective, and the Sixers will also have to figure out how they will get along on the defensive end since Embiid is a dangerous guy on that end of the floor as well.
They have had a lot more rest than their opponents here, having beaten the Nets in four games, and they have had over a week off. Meanwhile, the Celts had a harder time than usual with the Atlanta Hawks, who extended them to six games.
It should be noted that Boston could not close things out in Game 5 even though Atlanta was missing guard Dejounte Murray. There is no question that the Celtics will carry something of a frontcourt advantage in this Game 1. Clearly, they are not as thin up front as Brooklyn was.
Here are the NBA playoff odds at BetOnline as they are posted on this game:
Boston Celtics -9.5 (-115)
Philadelphia 76ers +9.5 (-105)
Over 214.5 Points -110
Under 214.5 Points -110
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Tyrese Maxey led the Sixers against Brooklyn with 21.8 points per game. And he will obviously have to be one of the people who pick up the slack if Embiid is missing for one or two games. But Maxey had difficulty figuring out Boston’s defensive scheme this season, scoring just 40 points in four meetings. So how dependable is he for coach Doc Rivers?
The guy who will have a lot of pressure on him, whether he plays more than half the minutes or not, is Paul Reed, who will assume the role of a “pure” pivot with Embiid unavailable. He’s not necessarily a great scorer or passer, but he is tenacious. Reed played a total of 66 minutes against the Nets, and he had 17 offensive rebounds. That’s a monstrous 28.5% rebounding percentage. And he also had the team’s best Defensive Rating against the Nets.
So if you’re looking for an X-factor, it could be the guy they call “B-Ball Paul.”
Some teams indeed get cold from the field after they take an extended break. That would be working against them here. But that’s not the only thing to consider.
The Sixers went 12-5 without Embiid, and one of the reasons is probably because they present something on offense and defense that teams aren’t used to. And with Harden at the helm of a crime that spreads the ball a bit more, they might be more challenging to defend.
And let’s see how much havoc Reed can create in getting second chances. The Sixers have some scorers. They may be a bargain here getting the points.
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