Joel Embiid didn’t play for the Sixers in Game 3 and is listed as doubtful once again for Game 4, meaning the Nets will catch a break as they attempt to even the series at two games apiece. The big man’s absence didn’t derail the Sixers on Thursday night during a comfortable 131-115 win. Philadelphia scored at least 30 points in all four quarters, giving itself an opportunity to take a commanding series lead this afternoon. Of course, when it comes to sports, we all know that if something happens once, it almost always happens again. That’s why I have concluded, with total conviction, the Sixers are simply a better team without Embiid and are a Game 4 lock.
That’s not how things work. At all. If Embiid does sit out in this one, the Sixers will need to find a way to again overcome the absence of their best player in order to stave off a desperate Nets team on the road, and that’s no small task.
Can they get it done? Let’s get into it.
Here are the LIVE Sixers-Nets odds for Game 4, courtesy of our news odds tool:
[sportsbook filters=”teams:Philadelphia 76ers”]
The Sixers were as much as an -835 moneyline favorite to win the series before Game 1, but the odds crashed to as low as -180 before Game 2. After two straight wins, however, the Sixers are now -1000 to advance past the Nets. I can’t possibly advise someone to pay that price on the Sixers, but if you think a Nets comeback is in the works starting today, then now is a good time to grab them at +600 with PointsBet.
As for the Game 4 spread, the Sixers were as high as a three-point favorite, but with Embiid now listed as doubtful, they are bouncing around -1.5 to -2 at some of the best NJ online sportsbooks.
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Let’s first start with each team’s overall performance against the spread. The Sixers haven’t been a good ATS bet this season, going only 40-45. The Nets, on the other hand, are a solid spread performer, compiling a 46-39 ATS record.
The Nets are 9-11 ATS as a home dog this season, while the Sixers are only 7-13 as a road favorite. Perhaps even more concerning for Sixers backers is the team’s rough performance as a short favorite this season. They are only 4-7 ATS when favored by four or less on the road. Their troubles as a short favorite aren’t just limited to road games, too. They are 6-16 ATS in all games when favored by four less and 3-8 ATS when it’s three or less, although one of those wins came on Thursday night.
Despite the Nets’ impressive underdog performance, they, too, have also struggled in this spread range. Brooklyn is only a mediocre 15-17 ATS when a dog of four points or less and an uninspiring 5-10 ATS when a dog of four points or less at home. League-wide, road favorites of four points or less in first round games are 14-20 ATS since ’05.
Historical data doesn’t provide much of a clue about how a road favorite will fair in Game 4 of the first round. Since 2005, such teams are 32-32-2 ATS. However, road favorites on a two-game winning streak heading into a Game 4, as the Sixers are here, have gone only 3-8 ATS. Perhaps more concerning is the Sixers’ poor play when riding a two-game winning streak this season. Brett Brown’s squad is only 3-14 ATS and 5-12 straight up after having won two-straight games. When that third game is played on the road, they are only 1-8 both ATS and straight-up. Obviously, this is a regular season stat, but it’s something worth taking into consideration.
One other note on opening series ebb and flow. When home teams lose Game 3 in the first round, they are only 22-26-2 ATS in Game 4 since the start of the ’05 NBA Playoffs.
Of course, these overall team performance trends don’t tell the entire story, so let’s go a little bit deeper. As for how the two teams have performed head-to-head this season, the Nets hold a slight 4-3 edge in covers, going 2-2 ATS on the road and 2-1 ATS at home.
Since this is the postseason, the level of competition is an important contextual factor to consider, so it’s probably worth noting Brooklyn is 25-19 ATS against teams .500 or better, 20-16 ATS against such teams as an underdog, and 8-7 ATS as a home dog. The Sixers are 15-14 ATS when playing teams that are .500 or better as a favorite, but are 3-1 ATS in a small sample of such games as a road favorite .
How will Embiid’s potential absence impact the Sixers? Philly is 9-3 SU and 7-5 ATS this season when Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harrris, JJ Redick, and Embiid start together. As for when Embiid sits out, the Sixers are 8-11 both SU and ATS this season.
The Nets’ impressive opening game performance apparently served as an eye opener for Philadelphia who has responded by bullying Brooklyn with and without Embiid. Still, this is a tough game. If he’s out, can the Sixers offense repeat its performance from Thursday night? Philadelphia remains the superior team, but its performance after back-to-back wins, particularly on the road, is concerning. For that reason, I personally won’t play this game, but if you forced me to take a side, I would probably tread lightly with Brooklyn.