Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers: Round 1, Free Picks, Odds & Predictions

Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers NBA Playoffs Round 1
Boston Celtics vs Philadelphia 76ers, Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

The Philadelphia 76ers didn’t go down without a fight, but Joel Embiid’s 30 points and 20 more from Tobias Harris were not enough to extend the series with the Boston Celtics. Ultimately, the Celtics showed their class in the fourth quarter as they pulled away behind 32 points from Kemba Walker and an impressive 28 points and 15 rebounds from Jayson Tatum. The difference in the game was Philadelphia’s 3-point shooting woes and the Sixers made just nine of 34 attempts from long range.

Boston Celtics win 4-0

The loss of Ben Simmons at point guard was going to be an issue for the Philadelphia 76ers and that was apparent in this series. Joel Embiid still scored his points and was a force in the paint, but the Sixers received inconsistent guard play without Simmons there to orchestrate the offense. The Boston Celtics took full advantage with Jayson Tatum dominating the series at both ends and great supporting efforts from Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. Assuming Toronto emerges from its series with Brooklyn, it will be interesting to watch those two teams battle in the second round.

Game 1

August 17th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

The Boston Celtics are the third team in the Eastern Conference that feels like they could be NBA champions this season. They certainly played that way in winning five of their first seven games in the bubble, solidifying the No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are a team in flux due to a knee injury to point guard Ben Simmons that will sideline him for this series – and likely the rest of Philadelphia’s season.

The Celtics rose to the occasion in their most important regular-season games in the bubble, notably dominating Toronto and holding off Portland. Jayson Tatum shook off a terrible first game to be a consistent presence for Boston and Gordon Hayward has shown flashes of his offensive brilliance as well. In their first seven games with mostly the first-team, Boston shot 48.3 percent from the field and 39.3 percent from 3-point range while scoring 123 points per game.

Philadelphia is a vastly different team since Simmons went down with his knee injury, and that greatly affects the 76ers’ odds of advancing in this series. The Sixers lost three of the five games without Simmons in the bubble, dispatching Orlando and an undermanned Rockets squad. Yet we don’t really know what Philadelphia will play like because Joel Embiid was limited in the games following Simmons’ injury. The center’s presence affects how Tobias Harris and the other 76ers guards will play around him, and could make things interesting for the Celtics defensively.

Boston is the clear favorite in this series and the New Jersey online sports betting sites agree with the Celtics installed at around -400 to advance. The best odds on Boston to win the series is -375 but that’s not where you make the money betting on the series. Boston sweeping is the longest odds of the four scenarios in which the Celtics advance at +500, but it’s also hard to see Philadelphia winning a game in this series without Simmons.

As a result, Boston is the pick in Monday’s first game of the series in Orlando. I’d even argue to pick the Celtics giving 6.5 points at +110 odds, though you can take them on the moneyline at -210.

BET ONBOSTON CELTICS TO WIN

Game 2 (Boston Celtics lead 1-0)

August 19th, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

Jayson Tatum started the Boston Celtics on the right path Monday night and Jaylen Brown finished it off for the Celtics in Game 1. Tatum looked comfortable in scoring 32 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, but Brown scored 15 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter to help Boston overturn a deficit in the final 12 minutes. Joel Embiid had 26 points to lead the way for the 76ers.

Even in victory, Boston was dealt a blow as Gordon Hayward will miss up to four weeks with a sprained ankle he suffered late in Monday’s win. Hayward only had 12 points and four rebounds, but he also had a team-high four steals and dished out three assists. While the Celtics will be able to replace his offense with their roster, it’ll be tough to find a substitute for his leadership and defense in this series.

There was a lot to like from Philadelphia despite the loss, starting with its effort on the glass. However, the 76ers will need to protect the ball better without Ben Simmons to run the offense, and they will also need to force Boston into more errors. Philadelphia had five players in double figures offensively, which is another positive, especially considering the tight rotation being used.

The Sixers did a lot of good things in Game 1 that can translate into Philadelphia winning Wednesday. They absorbed Tatum’s excellent start to the game and actually held a lead entering the fourth quarter. Boston will need a game to adjust to not having Hayward on the court defensively, allowing Philadelphia to tie the series. The 76ers are listed at +150 on the moneyline to win Game 2 on New Jersey online sports betting sites, and Embiid will lead them to that victory.

BET ON PHILADELPHIA 76ERS TO WIN

 

Game 3 (Boston Celtics lead 2-0)

August 21st, 6:30 p.m., The Field House

Jayson Tatum has really answered the call for the Boston Celtics in their first two playoff games against the Philadelphia 76ers. In Wednesday’s second game, Tatum made eight of his 12 shots from behind the arc en route to 33 points and also dished out a team-high five assists in the game. As impressive was Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker’s complementary scoring and playmaking as both fought through rough perimeter-shooting games to score 20 points.

What has set Boston apart in this series, however, is the depth the Celtics have shown off the bench. Enes Kanter had 10 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes and Grant Williams has chipped in with nine points and six rebounds. All in all, the Celtics had three bench players play more than 20 minutes Wednesday and have a plus-minus north of plus-20. That tells you Boston’s bench is able to maintain the level of play from its starters, which isn’t easy to do in the NBA.

Philadelphia just needs more production from its big-money stars in order to win a game in this series. The 76ers cannot afford to have Tobias Harris shoot 4-of-14 from the floor and score just 13 points in a playoff game. They cannot afford to only make five 3-pointers in a game and expect to win in the modern NBA. And they certainly need far more production than 20 points from the bench if they want to win a game in the playoffs.

You can see the frustration on Joel Embiid’s face and the Celtics really don’t have an answer for him in this series. Boston is perfectly fine with Embiid scoring his points if no one else is having a good game, but at some point Embiid will steal a game by himself. For some reason, I think that game will be Friday with Philadelphia really having nothing to lose after the first two games. So despite the New Jersey online sports betting sites rightfully making the Celtics the favorite in the game, I’m taking Philadelphia at +175 odds on the moneyline.

BET ON PHILADELPHIA 76ERS TO WIN

Game 4 (Boston Celtics lead 3-0)

August 23rd, 1:00 p.m., The Field House

The Boston Celtics survived a rough Game 3 by forcing the Philadelphia 76ers into an even worse shooting performance to move to within a game of closing out the series. Joel Embiid had to really work for his 30 points for Philadelphia, but Jayson Tatum had to settle for 15 points as his teammates stepped up around him. Tatum did make an impact defensively with four blocks, but the Celtics were dominated 57-42 on the glass, including 20 offensive rebounds for the 76ers.

Boston didn’t have the best offensive game with Tatum and Jaylen Brown both struggling from the floor, but Kemba Walker picked up the slack in a big way. Walker scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help the Celtics piece together enough offense to win Game 3. Boston will eventually need more contributions from the bench, which only scored 20 combined points and had two players with negative plus-minus and three who were simply plus-one.

Philadelphia needs to give Embiid more help if it has any chance of avoiding a sweep in this series. On a day where many of Boston’s best players weren’t elite, the 76ers shot 29.5 percent from the floor. That includes Embiid going just 7 of 20 from the field, but he at least found a way to score points by getting to the free-throw line. Embiid had half of the 76ers’ attempts from the stripe as one of four players who finished in double figures.

At this point, there’s no reason to believe that Embiid can carry the 76ers himself and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get much help. Boston is just too deep for Philadelphia in this series and that’s been on full display. Game 4 should be a cake walk for the Celtics, who are massive favorites at the New Jersey online sports betting sites. Boston is 8.5-point favorites, which is a bit of a stretch given the margin of victory in this series thus far, so I’ll settle with Boston on the moneyline and under 213.5 points at +143 odds.

BET ON BOSTON CELTICS TO WIN

 

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Josh Walfish is an award-winning journalist who has been covering college and professional sports in the United States. He holds a journalism degree from Northwestern University and his work has appeared in the Miami Herald, Chicago Sun-Times and Providence Journal. He most recently chronicled the UMass hockey teams rise to prominence over the last two years for the local newspaper

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