Can The Philadelphia 76ers Continue To Hold The East?

Can The Philadelphia 76ers Continue To Hold The East?

Welcome back to our weekly Sixers coverage. The last time we spoke Sixers basketball, they were about to face the Clippers in the first of seven road games out of their next nine games. During that stretch, the Sixers managed a 5-4 record. Vegas had projected the Sixers to go 7-2 during the stretch, but a shocking home loss to the Grizzlies capped a mildly disappointing stretch (even though Embiid missed the Grizzlies game).

Given the circumstances, the Sixers performed about how we expected they would. In the volatile Eastern Conference, the Sixers have still been moderately predictable to this point.

76ers on the rollercoaster

The roller coaster ride of the last two weeks began in LA. In the second-to-last road game of their West Coast road trip, the Sixers dropped two relatively close games to the Clippers and Nuggets. In both those games, the Sixers were simply outgunned.

Though the bench was able to make up ground against the opposing second units, the starters didn’t offer enough offensive upside to keep up. With the West Coast trip complete, the Sixers had just one more road game along the stretch. It would be their final game before the return of Joel Embiid (a matchup in Cleveland against the Cavs).

In their final game without Joel Embiid, the Sixers again used their bench depth to propel them against the inconsistent Cavs. Thybulle, Howard, Korkmaz, and Milton all had at least a +18 on play differential, as the Sixers dominated every major statistical matchup, thanks to a huge second half from seemingly the entire Sixers roster.

When Embiid returned in Philly’s home game against the Wolves, the hot shooting and glass domination continued. The Sixers appeared poised to return to form, as they prepared for a home game against the Grizzlies on April 4th. Since it was the back end of a back-to-back, the Sixers thought it best to rest Embiid.

It turned out to really hurt the Sixers as they failed to keep their offensive rhythm going against the Grizzlies. Doc mentioned after the game that the team was worn down following their extensive road trip and back-to-backs, so it makes sense the wear finally caught up with them. The Sixers were only able to manage a small advantage on the glass, but shot a meager 25% from deep.

Following the stumble at home versus Memphis, the Sixers rebounded nicely against the Celtics in Boston. With the return of Embiid to the lineup, defense and rebounding was the key to victory for Philadelphia. The Sixers were +6 on the glass and +9 in turnovers, as Danny Green’s sharpshooting (5-6 from three) helped the Sixers preserve a safe margin for most of the second half.

After the big win in Boston, the Sixers traveled to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans. Unfortunately, they simply had no answer for Zion Williamson. Zion managed a very efficient line while scoring 37 points and completely taking over the game. Despite being 5-point favorites heading into the game, the Sixers weren’t prepared to stop Zion.

After the letdown in New Orleans, the Sixers again bounced back in spectacular fashion, handling both the Thunder and the Mavericks on the road. With Embiid back as the focal point of the team, the Sixers have a half-game lead over the suddenly-struggling Nets.

The Sixers have their toughest stretch of the season remaining over the next 11 days, facing the Nets, Clippers, Suns, and Bucks (twice). With the exception of Golden State, the next six games will do a lot to shape the race for the top seed in the East. First up for the Sixers will be a home game against the Nets Wednesday.

Futures Awards Pick Updates

Is Joel Embiid still a decent bet for MVP?

Embiid is currently +352 on the BetRivers Online Sportsbook to win the MVP award. Is this a good bet?

Early in February, we discussed how Joel Embiid +400 was a risky bet. We talked about how Lebron had the narrative on his side and Jokic was the smart, longer bet at +450. Since that time, both Embiid and Lebron got injured, while Jokic has led the Nuggets to a surging second half record.

Though Embiid has better odds now (+325) than he did early in February, there is this issue of him both missing time and the Sixers still winning games during his absence. If he stays healthy the rest of the way and carries the Sixers to the top seed, we could still see Embiid take the award.

However, in light of what Jokic has done to carry the Nuggets in the second half of the season, it’s going to be hard for voters to justify taking Embiid over a guy seemingly more critical to his team’s success — who has also been healthy all year.

Also, the season-ending injury to Jamaal Murray last night should mean increased production and volume from Jokic. If you put money on Jokic in February, well done. However, if you think the Nuggets may slip without Murray and the Sixers pull away with Embiid, Joel would still be a decent bet here.