Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 10:00 AM EST. Odds subject to change.
Boston/Philadelphia over 228½ +100
7:00 PM EST. We know how talented the Boston offense has been and likely will continue to be all season. We also realize the 76ers' defense has been very good and after the James Harden trade, they got even better. Names like Nicolas Batum, Patrick Beverly, and Robert Covington anchor their bench; all stalwarts of defensive prowess. Even Kelly Oubre Jr., the former Hornet who got a little too comfortable not playing defense in Charlotte, is showing he knows how to use his length and physicality to make life difficult for opposing shooters. From where we're sitting, this is one of the best 76ers' rosters in a long time, and they should give the Celtics everything they can handle tonight. We think they might win, but we like a different angle even better.
As effective as the Philly defense has been, their offense has been operating at a very high level, too. We can't help but suspect that a large part of that improvement is that they've cured themselves of a rogue bacteria called the "Harden-disease," but we digress.
Of course, the most important part of their offense is last year's MVP, Joel Embiid. Embiid picked up right where he left off last season, averaging 32.5 ppg in his first 6 games. What we like even more is his career high average in assists so far (6.2). Of course it's early, but Embiid is playing a more Jokic-like role, facilitating and running the offense through his lens. In season's past, when Embiid is able to score and distribute the rock, Philly has been at their best. Already it's proving to be the case - Philly is the 3rd most efficient offense in the NBA through two weeks. Only the Pacers and their opponent tonight are better.
The Celtics are just too good offensively and it's hard to picture a game where they don't set the tempo and gain a lead early. We imagine that'll be the case tonight, especially since Boston is coming off their first loss and second-lowest team total of the season at Minnesota. Philly probably thinks they can limit the Celtics, they have before, but that's not something we trust in their first meeting. Boston leads the NBA in first quarter ppg (33.5), and their pace has increased this season (10th overall). The C's best-case-scenario every night they play is to gain a lead and hunker down on defense, something they'll undoubtedly attempt to do tonight at the Wells Fargo Center.
What we don't love for Boston's defense is the matchup. Embiid has had no issues scoring against the Celtics in recent history, including a 52-point game in their last regular season affair and over 25 ppg when they clashed in the playoffs last Spring. Tonight presents an even greater challenge for the C's since they lost some defensive depth in the offseason. Gone is the feisty Grant Williams and there's no more Robert Williams III to defend the rim. Kristaps Porzingis is a gifted scorer and he's thrived so far offensively with his new team, but we don't trust him against Embiid's physicality and footwork in the paint. Al Horford will come off the bench to try and slow down the big man and we imagine he'll aid Porzingis early, but been-there-done-that for Embiid.
Both teams are top 11 in pace, top 3 offensively, and top 5 in points per game. This is also a showcase inaugural matchup between two heated rivals, which usually ends up being more of an offensive exhibition than a playoff-like defensive battle. Last year their first contest produced 243 points. We like the same type of scoring spree tonight.
Over 228½ +100 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.00)