Oddsmakers Still Like 76ers Chances Despite Game 1 Stunner
The Philadelphia 76ers entered the postseason in seemingly excellent standing.
A stretch to end March in which they won eight of 10 games essentially locked them in to the No. 3 seed in the East, which was relevant because it meant missing the Bucks in Round 2 and the Celtics, their kryptonite in both the regular and postseason, in Round 1.
The No. 3 seed also meant a first-round date with one of the three lower-tiered East playoff teams. When the dust settled that team was the Brooklyn Nets, a team the Sixers had beaten by 13 points at home during that hot stretch in late March.
The Sixers were heavy NBA betting favorites heading into this seven-game series with the Nets. Oddsmakers still think they’ll move on to the second round, but their confidence is wavering. Despite their Game 1 loss, which we’ll break down below, the Sixers are still -210 on to win the seven-game series.
Sportsbooks Believe Sixers Will Bounce Back
Even though the odds are far less than the -501 they were at the outset of the playoffs, this is still a team with the series’ three best players (Embiid, Simmons, Butler), more playoff experience and likely homecourt advantage if they can return to Philadelphia with the series tied 2-2.
There’s plenty of reason to believe they’ll turn things around in time to hold off a pesky Brooklyn team. Though the Nets now have the odds in their favor (52 percent of road teams that win Game 1 win the series), the Sixers are still in an advantageous position as they get ready for Game 2 on Monday.
Embiid, Sixers Struggle in Game 1 Loss
All the Sixers’ good fortunes in March went out the window on Saturday, as the Nets came storming in to Philadelphia and took it to the Sixers, earning a commanding 111-102 Game 1 victory and claiming home-court advantage in the process.
Just about anything that could have gone wrong for the Sixers did. It actually began in the lead-up to Saturday, with All-Pro center Joel Embiid being non-committal on his availability for Game 1.
Embiid had missed 14 of 24 games since the All-Star break with a sore knee and was listed as doubtful. He wound up playing but clearly wasn’t his usual self; he started 1 of 9 and finished 5 of 15, his worst shooting performance since early February, finishing with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
The score might have been worse had Jimmy Butler not gone for a playoff career-high 36 points. After the game Butler admitted the Sixers need Embiid in order to remain competitive in the series but that “at the same time he can hurt us if (the knee) gets worse.”
Sixers' Jimmy Butler on ailing Joel Embiid after Game 1 loss to Nets: "Yeah, he can help us, but at the same time he can hurt us if it gets worse. Like I said, don't get me wrong: We definitely want Jo out there, but we definitely want him healthy." pic.twitter.com/WHNiAfLWqo— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 13, 2019
Butler didn’t get much help from his supporting cast in the wake of Embiid’s off-night, with Ben Simmons, JJ Redick and Tobias Harris combining for just 18 points on 7 of 23 shooting; those three averaged a combined 55 points per game in the regular season.
The Sixers were one of the league’s best 3-point shooting teams in the regular season, averaging 10.8 triples on nearly 36 percent shooting, the eighth best mark in the NBA. That wasn’t the case in Game 1, as Philadelphia missed a whopping 22 of its 25 attempts from beyond the arc.
While the Nets did an excellent job hounding Redick and Harris, the Sixers are still confident those shots will eventually fall, get the offense going and put this high-octane team into gear.
Cellphone-Gate Adds Insult To Injury
Adding insult to injury – the Sixers were booed multiple times throughout the game by their home crowd – was ESPN camera crews picking up Embiid and backup center Amir Johnson looking at a cell phone scrolling through text messages on the bench late in the fourth quarter.
Embiid said Johnson was checking in on his “extremely sick” daughter, but head coach Brett Brown said , the episode was “completely unacceptable.” Johnson was fined by the Sixers and publicly apologized for his actions, which under NBA rules are forbidden and could result in suspension or fine.
It was simply another layer of drama that this team didn’t need in the wake of an ugly, ugly loss on their home floor to begin the postseason.
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