Brooklyn Nets vs. Philadelphia 76ers Pick
Brooklyn Nets (42-40, 45-37 ATS regular season) vs. Philadelphia 76ers (51-31, 38-44 ATS regular season)
When: Saturday, April 13th, 2019 – 2:30 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: 76ers -8
Situations: NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs – Round 1, Game 1
After 176 days, 1312 games, and more than 63,000 minutes played, we’ve finally reached our destination. The NBA playoffs are the cherry on top of the best sports week of the calendar year, and I am ready to get this show on the road.
The 2019 NBA Playoffs kick off with the sexiest underdog pick of the season as the Brooklyn Nets come into the lion’s den to take on my beloved Philadelphia 76ers. The sportsbooks see things differently as my hometown heroes are a -700 series favorite over the up-and-coming Nets. With my large adult son Joel Embiid’s status currently up in the air (he’s probably playing), most betting sites are too afraid to put out a line. Conventional gambling wisdom would indicate that we’ll be looking at a a wide release of an 8 point market as currently is the case at 5dimes. Don’t blame me for the sins of the Sixers’ PR staff.
Good Luck, Mr. Whammy
I know that NBA Twitter has been falling all over itself to fawn over the success that the Brooklyn Nets have had while knocking “The Process,” but let’s all calm down a bit. For those of you lucky to be on the outside of NBA message boards looking in, the narrative has been that Brooklyn managed to build a 6-seed in the East without having of their first-round picks while other teams (read: The Sixers) haven’t even built true contenders despite picking in the lottery for consecutive years at a time. And to that I say: go eff yourself. The Nets are a cute little up-start – I’m not denying that. They have shown a ton of resiliency and scratched and clawed their way through injuries and talent gaps to secure a 42-40 record and a decent seed while creating a fun, entertaining professional basketball team. Congratulations. The Sixers limped to a 3-seed while securing rest for their best players and only playing their true, playoff starting five a total of 161 minutes together. Brooklyn’s ceiling is Game 6 of this series; Philadelphia’s ceiling is a title. Calm down, peons.
At first glance, you can look at this Sixers-Nets matchup and see exactly what those so-called experts are talking about: they were 2-2 on the season! Good enough for me! Welcome to the slaughter, sheep. First game? Never happened. One of the Sixers’ starters that game was some dude named Markelle Fultz. Playing in Estonia now, I think. Game 2 had Brooklyn’s bench score 48 points on 26 shots. Possible? Yes. Sustainable? Not likely. The third meeting had a similar thread, but on steroids: 70 freaking points on 35 shots for Brooklyn’s bench mob. Spoiler alert: that’s crazy! And the fourth and final installment made a bit of sense, as the Sixers secured a 13-point lead and the Nets’ bench only scored…68 points. Uh-oh – are the Sixers in trouble against Brooklyn’s depth?!
It’s a distinct possibility. But if you want to know the real reason that Brooklyn had success against Philadelphia this season, it’s all in the oldest play in basketball: the pick-and-roll. In an effort to conserve Joel Embiid’s energy and keep my son’s gigantic behind closer to the basket, the Sixers have elected to ignore the hedge and drop the big on most pick-and-roll action. In laymen’s terms, when an opposing guard gets around a screen, Joel Embiid isn’t there to stop him – he’s there to encourage him to either shoot a mid-range jumper or suffer the consequences. For guys such as Spencer Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell, who both rank in the top 33% in pick-and-roll efficiency and are capable-to-deadly mid-range shooters, it’s a real problem. And it’s Brooklyn’s best chance at upsetting Philly in Game 1. After that, adjustments will be made, and punishments will be doled out accordingly. But we only care about Game 1, right?
Whatever It Takes
The Process Avengers are here (h/t to @DidTheSixersWin) and they have one mission in mind: play June basketball. The Celtics may live rent-free in our heads, and the Raptors may have superior athletes, and the Bucks may be able to unleash Giannis on us to singlehandedly take us out – but you better believe that we’re coming. Philadelphia’s new-look starting five is 8-2 in games they played together, and Embiid has had plenty of rest in the run-up to the playoffs. From here on out, every action that this team takes is going to be put under a microscope, and if Jimmy and Tobias want to earn their new contracts, it all starts on Saturday afternoon. Trust the Process, baby. Do it for Hinkie!
I’m only half-serious about that whole spiel. The reality is that this team is somewhere in between what the national media thinks of it and what the most optimistic Philadelphian thinks of it. Ben Simmons still can’t shoot, Joel Embiid needs to stay on the court, Tobias Harris has played 4 uneventful playoff games in his career, and Jimmy Butler “might be” a complete lunatic (he Is). Also, J.J. Redick is the only reliable, consistent shooting threat on the team, and he’s a 34-year old white guy from Duke. In other words, more dangerous teams have been assembled in the annals of NBA history.
But Philadelphia teams always have one thing: spirit. As long as those five have a breath left in their bodies, they’ll be on their feet swinging. Hopefully they won’t need to dig down into the reserves for this first game at home. Philly owns the number one overall stadium attendance, and I like to think that I played a small part in their 31-10 home record. When coming off of a couple days of rest, Philly is an efficient 14-8 on the season, and as I indicated previously, they are damn good with their new squad: 8-2 in 10 games with a +17.6-point differential, 4th-best 5-man unit in the NBA. Brooklyn’s guards are a problem, but my son is a much, much bigger one. Embiid put a hurtin’ on a lot of teams this season, but 30 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists per game against BKN this season gets the job done. To set the tone for this series, I fully expect Joel to come out nostrils flaring and show Brooklyn’s bigs who’s boss. Also, we have somewhere between 2 and 4 other All-Star-caliber players on the team – I think we can handle Rodion Kurucs and Jarrett Allen.
I feel truly robbed that we don’t yet have a line for this game. Maybe, if I’m feeling generous, I’ll come back and amend my thoughts on the match-up if we see a point spread or get any late breaking news about the Sixers’ health woes. But for now, I feel pretty comfortable in my thinking. Last season, Philadelphia went all-out to win 16 in a row heading into the playoffs and lock-up a 3-seed. Everyone subsequently chose the Miami Heat to upset them, and the Sixers responded by soundly beating the brakes off of them in 5 games. This season, Philly did the smart thing and favored rested legs over team chemistry, and the gamble has resulted in a sentiment that this team is supremely beatable – even to the lowly Nets. I have news for you, NBA people: The Sixers hear everything. They read everything. And they aren’t going to take it anymore. Philadelphia puts the league on notice on Saturday afternoon. If not, find me huddled in a corner watching Bryce Harper highlights. Win-win for me either way.
Final Score Prediction: Philadelphia 134 – Brooklyn 106