The fiery NBA MVP debate was to be settled when Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers climbed the mountain to battle Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets on Monday.
And then Embiid popped up on the injury report with a sore calf and is now expected to sit out tonight’s intriguing non-conference clash.
Ugh. We’re not allowed to have nice things.
That news ran Denver from -5.5 to as high as -7.5, with the Nuggs bringing a three-game winning streak into Monday’s matchup after blowing out Milwaukee on the weekend.
Philadelphia has stumbled in its first two stops of the Western stretch of its current four-game trip, losing at Phoenix and Golden State, and is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four outings overall after starting the post-break schedule 10-3 SU and 8-5 ATS.
I size up the spread and total for Monday’s tilt — and those notable adjustments — and give my best NBA picks and predictions for the 76ers vs. Nuggets on March 27.
76ers vs Nuggets best odds
76ers vs Nuggets picks and predictions
OK, we don’t get the battle of MVP front runners that we wanted, and the painful debate over what makes a player “Most Valuable” rages on.
The last time Philadelphia took the floor without Embiid it knocked off the Miami Heat 119-96 in South Beach on March 1, and speedy guard Tyrese Maxey led the way with 27 points. That’s nothing new for Maxey, who seems to step up whenever Philly is missing its big man in the middle.
Maxey has played in nine games in which Embiid was absent this season (he also sat with an injury in November) and is averaging 28.9 points in those contests. On top of that 27-point effort against Miami earlier this month, Maxey went for 32, 23, 26, and 17 points for the sans-Embiid Sixers in January.
The 76ers do roll out a smaller lineup when Embiid is out, which lends itself to a quicker tempo and lands right in the wheelhouse of Maxey, who is a dynamic player in transition. He ranks 15th in points in transition in the NBA, which is saying something considering he’s the team’s third option in an offense that runs the eighth-lowest transition rate in the Association.
Maxey was already upping his efforts with James Harden out the past three games, scoring 37 against Phoenix on Saturday along with a pair of 21-point performances against Golden State and Chicago. And while Embiid has been the anchor offensively for the 76ers this month, Maxey has also upped his output and is averaging 23 points per game so far in March.
His points prop for this trip to Denver is listed at 23.5 (Over -115) — a slight increase from his point total vs. Phoenix (22.5) and on par with his projected score against the Warriors. Harden’s return could take some touches away, but the Beard also likes to push the pace and will inject the Philly offense with tempo and transition opportunities.
With Embiid firing up more than 19 field goals per outing this month, there are extra shots to go around. And considering Maxey has a way of claiming those looks, I like him to top his point prop tonight.
My best bet: Tyrese Maxey Over 23.5 points (-115)
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76ers vs Nuggets spread analysis
With Embiid listed as questionable, this spread bounced between Nuggets -5 and -6 in the morning with bookies padding the line. However, once it was announced he would likely sit out, the spread slid all the way to -7.5 around 2 p.m. ET Monday afternoon. As of 3:30 p.m. ET, the market has come down a bit to Denver -6.5.
But hey Sixers fans, at least James Harden is expected to return after missing the last three games with Achilles pain. I know, it’s not the same.
Without Embiid in action, Philadelphia is a solid 9-4 SU and 8-5 ATS. Many of those matchups, however, have come against some weaker opposition in the East with the 76ers picking and choosing those rest spots.
Denver has made quick work of Eastern Conference competition in the past week, winning three in a row over Milwaukee, Washington, and Brooklyn. After a four-game blip in mid-March, the Nuggets are 4-1 SU and ATS in their last five heading into tonight.
Denver is one of the better home bets in the NBA at 23-13-1 ATS inside Ball Arena on the season, but it's just 2-3 ATS as a host since the All-Star break. The Nuggets’ net rating at home has shrunk from +11.9 pre-break to just +4.2 over those previous five home stands, but Denver looked sharp in trouncing the Bucks by 23 points on Saturday en route to an easy cover.
The Sixers were rocketing up the standings thanks to a softer slate of foes following the All-Star Game but are getting tested during this four-game road trip. Philadelphia fell to Golden State and Phoenix in the past two games and this offensive has limped out two listless efforts.
While the 76ers have done well defensively during this slump, the lack of offensive pop (with Harden missing those last three games) hasn’t been enough to cover the spread. Philadelphia is 1-3 ATS in those four outings and 20-17 ATS as a visitor overall.
76ers vs Nuggets Over/Under analysis
This Over/Under opened as big as 230.5 and has slipped to as short as 228.5 before bubbling back up to 229 points. After the Embiid injury news hit the wire, the total ticked up to 230.5 with the Sixers missing their key defender in the middle and now more likely to run a smaller lineup with an uptick in tempo.
Without Embiid inside, the 76ers own a 9-4 O/U record. In the most recent outing without Embiid, the Sixers bumped 6-foot-5 forward P.J. Tucker to center and started point guard De'Anthony Melton alongside Harden and Maxey. Six-foot-9 forward Paul Reed got a lot of run off the bench as well.
With Embiid anchoring the interior, Philadelphia’s plodding pace and determined defense have kept the team below the closing total in three of those last four games, with Saturday’s game against the Suns finishing above the number of 225 points.
On the season, the Sixers have been a sound Over play away from home at 21-16 O/U as visitors. They’ve been traveling a lot this month, owning a 6-2 O/U road record heading into Monday.
The Nuggets shot 53% from the floor in the one-sided win over Milwaukee this weekend, putting up 129 points — their biggest output of the month. Denver is also playing a methodical pace with the basketball, owning the fifth-slowest pace rating in March. That’s led to a string of four straight Unders and a 4-7 O/U count in those 11 games.
76ers vs Nuggets betting trend to know
The 76ers are 9-4 Over/Under in the 13 games without Joel Embiid this season. Find more NBA betting trends for 76ers vs. Nuggets.
76ers vs Nuggets game info
|Location:||Ball Arena, Denver, CO|
|Date:||Monday, March 27, 2023|
|Tip-off:||9:30 p.m. ET|