The Philadelphia 76ers open their second-round series against the Atlanta Hawks with star C Joel Embiid’s status up in the air. The big man injured his knee in Game 4 and missed Game 5 although Philadelphia still disposed of Washington.
Despite his questionable status, Philadelphia is a -135 online sports betting favorite against the Hawks, who are +115 to win Game 1. For the series, the Sixers are -180 to win with the hope that Embiid will join the team soon. But whether Embiid plays through the injury or doesn’t play at all, Philadelphia should still win this Sunday.
Hawks: Knocking on the Door
The Atlanta Hawks had an underrated season. They finished fifth in the East, but their 27-11 record under Nate McMillan would have put them atop the East. In fact, that winning percentage is second only to Utah. Atlanta also had the third-best record after the All-Star break.
McMillan has turned the Hawks into a more efficient and cohesive unit. The Hawks ranked ninth in offensive rating and 12th on defense after the break. They quickly sent the Knicks on vacation in the first round as Trae Young averaged 29.2 points and 9.8 assists and C Clint Capela, the star of the series, shut down Julius Randle.
Capela also posted 13.4 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and a 97 defensive rating. Atlanta was 36.3 points better when he was on the floor. F John Collins and G/F Bogdan Bogdanovic also played pivotal roles. With Young leading the offense and Capela anchoring the defense, these Hawks are the dark horses of the East.
76ers: The Main Man
Social media was awfully quiet following the Philadelphia 76ers’ emphatic win over the Washington Wizards in Game 5. That’s right. The much-maligned man himself, G Ben Simmons delivered a massive triple-double to lead the Sixers to victory.
In a playoff elimination game without the team’s best player Ben Simmons was the best player on the court on both ends while playing out of position to fill in for the betterment of the team.
None of you PPG watching casual idiots deserve this man pic.twitter.com/Bcvbw5nsbe
— Hoops Reference (@HoopsReference) June 3, 2021
Despite his shooting woes, Simmons has easily taken over a game thanks to his ability to disrupt opponents’ offense while making it easier for his teammates. G Seth Curry had a playoff career-high 30 points and the Sixers’ offense improved by 32.1 points with Simmons running the show.
Going up against Young, Simmons can use his size and quickness against the smaller guard. Alternatively, he can guard everyone else from the Hawks’ lineup. His defensive versatility affords Doc Rivers and the team to make better adjustments.
Pick: Sending A Message
Either team can send a message to the rest of the NBA with a big win here. An upset from the Atlanta Hawks will signal to everyone that they are a contender while a win from the Sixers, especially without Embiid, will solidify their status as one as well.
Simmons should be able to make life hard for Young, who is the main engine for the Hawks’ offense. They have a bevy of shooters from Bogdanovic to G Kevin Huerter, but the Sixers are also littered with long mid-sized defenders like F Matisse Thybulle who are also flexible.
If the Hawks have an armament of weapons, the Sixers have disruptors for each of them. Offense may be a bigger battle as the Sixers’ shooters need to shine to seal this game.
Pick: Philadelphia 76ers -135
Bonus Pick: Defense To Offense
The Hawks have a lot more weapons on offense and are an intriguing play at +120 on the NBA lines to record the highest quarter. But what the Sixers lack in shooters they make up for with large wing defenders who could eat the Hawks for breakfast.
Led by Simmons, the Sixers should be able to shut the Hawks down where they can capitalize on turnovers. Plus, they have F Tobias Harris and Curry who can go off themselves.