The Philadelphia 76ers won eight games in a row and opened a three-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets during their winning streak in a fierce fight for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Just last week, the 76ers (47-21) and Nets (44-24) were neck-and-neck battling for the top spot. But the 76ers unleashed their winning streak, while the Nets continued their slide and dropped four-straight games. James Harden is expected to return to action for the Nets sometime this week after missing several weeks with a hamstring injury. Once they lost Harden, the Nets lost their grip on the #1 seed in the East.
The top seed is vital because it guarantees the #1 seed will have home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. The 76ers have the best home record in the east at 27-7 and the second-best home record in the NBA.
The Nets are the consensus favorites to win the 2021 NBA championship. You can back them at +250 odds at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas. The 76ers are currently +800 odds.
DraftKings recently updated their NBA futures board. The Nets are -109 odds favorites to win the Eastern Conference. The Milwaukee Bucks are the second-favorite on the board at +325 odds, while the 76ers are third-highest on the board at +325 odds to win the East.
The Sixers Surge
What a difference two weeks makes, eh? The 76ers suffered their worst stretch of the season at the end of April. They lost four games in a row, which was their worst losing streak of the season, including two ugly losses against Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in Milwaukee.
The 76ers bounced back from their low point with an eight-game winning streak, but only three of those games were on the road.
Defense has been the key to their recent success. During their winning streak, the 76ers held opponents to only 101 ppg. Overall this season, the 76ers have the sixth-best defense, allowing 108.2 ppg. During their eight-game winning streak, the 76ers also improved their offense. They cranked out 119.4 ppg — at least five more points per game above their season average.
Betting-wise, the 76ers went 6-2 ATS during their current winning streak.
Embiid MVP Numbers
The 76ers didn’t make any earth-shattering moves before the trade deadline, even though several high-profile players were linked in trade rumors, including Kyle Lowry and Victor Oladipo. With a healthy squad, Doc Rivers has been utilizing his bench without employing “load management” tactics, which ruined the vibe of the LA Clippers last season.
“We will not blink at playing 11 guys if we need to,” said Rivers. “We are that deep. We are that talented.”
While everyone in the league has been in awe and fawning over Steph Curry’s recent offensive explosion, Joel Embiid has quietly put up a career-best 29.2 ppg. Embiid has been on a tear in the second half of the season. He’s ranked #3 in scoring, trailing Bradley Beal and Curry.
Embiid recently torched the New Orleans Pelicans for 27 points and 13 rebounds. He also knocked down three treys on 3-for-4 shooting from 3-point range.
“It would be a feel-good thing for the entire locker room,” explained head coach Doc Rivers said. “It would mean that we not only have the MVP, but we have players, we have a good team and we’re being a successful group.”
Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets has the inside track to winning the MVP this season. Jokic is a huge favorite over Embiid, especially after the Nuggets lost Jamal Murray to a season-ending knee injury.
On Deck: Pacers, Heat, Magic
The 76ers have four more games remaining on their schedule. They play two more road games before ending the season with two home games.
The 76ers are in Indianapolis tonight to take on the Indiana Pacers (32-36). They fly down to South Beach to battle the Miami Heat (37-31) on Thursday.
Over the weekend, the Orlando Magic (21-47) are in the city of brotherly love for two games in three days to complete the regular season. If the #1 seed has been determined before the weekend, expect Doc Rivers to rest his stars, especially Embiid.