The Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers do battle tonight with the winner claiming undisputed ownership of the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Both teams are 8-2 through 10 games, with Boston’s new additions Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday sliding into the Celtics system seamlessly.
Meanwhile, the 76ers have been buoyed by another MVP-caliber season by Joel Embiid, as well as Tyrese Maxey making a gigantic leap with the departure of James Harden.
The Celtics have gotten the better of this matchup in recent years, but it was Philadelphia that came away with the win last Wednesday.
Celtics vs 76ers odds
Celtics vs 76ers predictions
Nearly everyone expected the top two teams in the East this season to be the Boston Celtics and the Milwaukee Bucks in some order. While the Bucks have floundered early, it has instead been the Philadelphia 76ers that have joined the Celtics in the top tier of the conference.
Philadelphia made a few key changes in the offseason. One was swapping in Nick Nurse for Doc Rivers, and so far, that change is paying major dividends.
Players have been effusive about the different level of empowerment and ball movement that has been the foundation of Nurse’s offense. The 76ers are only narrowly behind the Pacers for the best offense in the NBA at 121.2 offensive rating, per Cleaning the Glass.
Letting go of James Harden is a big reason why, as Tyrese Maxey has begun to blossom into a superstar. And part of what Maxey brings to the table is speed.
So the 76ers are running... a lot.
Per Cleaning the Glass, the 76ers spent more possessions in transition than any team save the Hawks. One way to beat an elite defense like the Celtics is to never let them set up in the first place.
Crucially, Kristaps Porzingis is officially questionable with a knee contusion. While that is not an injury that seems likely to incur further risk by playing, I'm still of the mind that the Celtics are going to wrap Porzingis in bubble wrap rather than risk any lower-body injury to him during the regular season.
While it would be nice to win this game against a conference rival, the Celtics are squarely focused on the long game — winning a championship — and that requires that their top seven be healthy come playoff time.
While the Celtics can still play five out with Al Horford, he’s simply not the shooting threat KP has proven to be. Al has developed into a quality shooter but rarely takes them in volume, has a lower release, and is slower to get his looks off.
That allows Embiid to cheat just enough off of him to further clog the lane against the Celtics' guards and wings and still recover enough when the pass swings to Horford.
Porzingis was also crucial to the 76ers defensive scheme against Embiid. While Jrue was the one directly matched up with Embiid much of the time a week ago, that was only tenable (such as it was) because Porzingis was lurking as the weak-side shot blocker.
Horford doesn’t have the juice to make that kind of rapid rotation anymore, and neither do I think Boston is going to want to risk him banging with Embiid down low for 40 minutes at this stage of his career in a non-playoff contest.
That potentially leaves the Celtics with an intractable matchup problem if KP is out or limited as I suspect he will be. Against any other configuration, they can throw against Embiid, they’ll simply have to send him to the foul line. The 76ers lead the league in free throw rate, in large part of course due to Embiid being unstoppable with a head of steam or facing up on the block.
Boston’s advantage comes on the wing and the perimeter, but that gap narrows if Jaylen Brown — also questionable due to illness — is unable to give it a go.
With this number having risen as much as six points since opening, I like the 76ers to cover at +5.
My best bet: 76ers +5 (-107 at Pinnacle)
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Celtics vs 76ers same-game parlay
With so much lineup uncertainty for Boston heading into Wednesday’s game, options on prop bets are fairly limited for forming today’s same-game parlay. So, I’m pairing a 76ers cover with the Over at 225.5 with Embiid to score Over 31.5 points.
Both the 76ers and the Boston are elite half-court offenses, ranking second and third in half-court points per possession, per Cleaning the Glass, respectively. That bodes well for the Over because even if the Celtics can do something to slow down Maxey in the open court, I still think Philadelphia will score.
With the potential for a decimated rotation for the Celtics, that will mean new and unfamiliar defensive assignments. You might see Luke Kornet get real minutes as the weak-side helper. Any hesitation or errors will be ruthlessly punished by Embiid.
Getting to the foul line a lot for intermittent breathers is also a way that Embiid can conserve some energy on the second night of a back-to-back. Embiid always gets up for matchups against Boston, so I have faith he’ll fight through any possible fatigue.
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Celtics vs 76ers spread and Over/Under analysis
When these two teams played one week ago, the 76ers came away with a narrow 106-103 victory. That final score wasn’t entirely reflective of the game, however, as Philadelphia led by 15 points with around three minutes to go before letting their foot off the gas.
I gave real consideration to laying the Celtics when I saw what the line had opened with Boston getting as much as +1.5 points at some sportsbooks, but that line rapidly expanded to where it stands at the time of writing at between -4.5 and -5, even with uncertainty about Porzingis and Brown’s status.
Brown is listed as questionable with a non-Covid illness, so even should he play, he’s likely to be worse for wear.
The Celtics do have a rest advantage, but they’re not so much better that I’ll eat the points to back them over the 76ers who just beat them and who are playing at home in addition to the potential absence of Porzingis.
If I knew Porzingis would play and be healthy, this would approach a stay-away number, but the 76ers have the second-best record against the spread this season. They’re now 8-2 ATS overall, including 6-1 at home.
Wednesday’s total opened at 223.5. It’s seen some slight fluctuation as high as 224.5 since yesterday evening and is now available between 225.5 and 226.5.
These teams are both elite on both sides of the ball, but matchup advantages — for Boston on the wing and Philadelphia on the interior — suggest to me a high-scoring game. The Over has cashed in six of Philadelphia’s 10 games this year.
Celtics vs 76ers betting trend to know
The 76ers are 8-2 ATS this season. Find more NBA betting trends for Celtics vs. 76ers.
Celtics vs 76ers game info
|Location:||Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA|
|Date:||Wednesday, November 15, 2023|
|Tip-off:||7:30 p.m. ET|
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