NBA Playoff Preview: Do The 76ers Have What It Takes To Eliminate Raptors?
Can the Philadelphia 76ers handle a downgrade?
That’s an angle under consideration by New Jersey sports bettors as the No. 4 seeded Sixers launch the NBA Playoffs by hosting the No. 5 seed Toronto Raptors Saturday at Wells Fargo Center.
It’s a stark change from one year ago, when the No. 1 seeded Sixers were preparing for a five-game cakewalk against the No. 8 Washington Wizards in the opening round
Yes, the Sixers are favored to win this opening series at DraftKings Sportsbook (-180) compared to the Toronto line of +150, but this is a looming dogfight. They dropped the season series to the Raptors, 3-1. They also lost the last two to Toronto, including one at home.
Can Philadelphia get over the hump and reach Round 2?
That’s only one course on the expanded playoff betting menu.
Gamblers have additional, intriguing options because they now wager on a series along with individual games.
Here are some of the different ways bettors can navigate the Sixers series.
Sixers and Raptors betting perspective
The first question for New Jersey sports bettors is whether they agree with the sportsbook perception of the matchup.
Selecting the exact series outcome would pay handsomely at DraftKings Sportsbook. Here is a look at where the series odds for the 76ers winning currently stand:
- Seven games is +320
- Six games is +475
- Five games is +380
- Unlikely four-game sweep is +800
And here is a look at the Toronto Raptors odds of winning:
- Seven games is +600
- Six games is +475
- Five games is +1200
- Four games is +1900
Sixers vs. Raptors odds at NJ sportsbooks
Game 1 outlook for Philadelphia and Toronto
The Sixers are favored by 4.5 points while the over-under is 216.
The Philadelphia moneyline is -190 while the Raptors are +160.
Based on the potentially explosive nature of both teams, the over number is reasonable.
Yet given the defensive nature that marks the postseason, under bettors may like the total, especially because the teams tend to play lower-scoring games in Philadelphia.
There’s an angle for both sides.
Sixers odds at Caesars Sportsbook
Here is another interesting way to get some action down before the opening tip.
Forget about the 76ers odds of winning the series. Focus only on the number of games it lasts.
If the series goes exactly seven games, the Caesars Sportsbook payout is +190.
Should it last six, the payout is +210.
A five-game series returns +250.
A four-game sweep, by either team, is +600.
Based on these figures, the series looks targeted for six or seven games.
There is a way to leverage this too.
Say you have placed a large wager on the series to go seven games.
And then say it’s 3-2 in one team’s favor after five games.
If you had made a big bet, you know there’s a big payoff if the series becomes tied and gets decided in seven.
If the series is 3-2, one can consider taking a small cover bet on the team that’s ahead to clinch in Game 6, perhaps even stringing it with a parlay.
This could, in effect, give you a push after Game 6 for the tradeoff of a smaller, but guaranteed victory in Game 7.
Why hedge at all? For a large bettor, this type of wager can make sense, especially over time.
If the series already is far along, the hedge can help everyday gamblers who make a high volume of bets to avoid several losing tickets. This helps prevent a long-term drought and may, over the long term, boost your bottom line.
For gamblers who make small wagers, this does not come into play. But big bettors want every edge. And sometimes the hedge is the edge.
76ers vs. Raptors series intangibles
The 76ers need more from James Harden. He averaged 10.5 assists in 21 games after being acquired from the Nets and he opened the floor for Joel Embiid and the emergence of Tyrese Maxey.
But his average of 21 points per game is a few shy of what they hoped to get. The Sixers hope for some 30-point, 10-assist games from their playmaker.
There’s an under-current, or maybe an “over’ current, regarding Matisse Thybulle. He’s been a good defensive player for the Sixers but he cannot travel to Toronto because he’s not fully vaccinated.
This could hurt the Sixers a little defensively. Savvy totals players may want to consider whether the Sixers-Raptors road games will feature a little more scoring.
On March 20, in Philadelphia, Thybulle played 34 minutes and the Sixers’ 93-88 loss contained 181 points. He did not play last week in Toronto and the Sixers lost 119-114, as the game reached 233 points. Thybulle is not a big presence in the line, but the lack of a defensive specialist could tweak the total.
Plus, Toronto enters the NBA Playoffs winners of eight out of their last 10.
Is Doc Rivers on the hot seat?
The postseason could be a referendum on Sixers coach Doc Rivers.
Joel Embiid is in the prime of his career and this is the time to make the most of his rare talent.
The Sixers under-achieved with Rivers last year, falling flat on their face as favorites against the Atlanta Hawks in the second playoff round. They lost three home games in the series, including a fifth-game setback when they blew a 26-point lead. That’s coaching, more than a statement about players.
This year, after the Harden pickup, they should have been able to win the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference and get home-court edge for three series matchups, not one. But they lost games good teams shouldn’t, including a road setback to the Detroit Pistons late in the year.
Were they rolling the dice to wait for the playoffs? If so, they need to roll a 7 right now.
An early exit for the Sixers could mean the end of Rivers here too.
DraftKings ‘seeing steady stream’ on 76ers
Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, said the Sixers maintain some betting respect.
“The Phoenix Suns have taken about 21% of the handle, but they are relatively a short price compared with other teams,” Avello told Play NJ. “The Sixers are a hazard for us. They are being bet at some pretty good money now in the area of 14-1.
“We have been seeing a steady stream on them all year, especially in the second half (presumably after they picked up James Harden in a deal with the Nets).
“The players are also on the Raptors a little bit here. This is a team that is playing as good as anybody. They had a good season at home and a good season on the road. They were consistent.
“In the opening game, we saw the Raptors bettors jump on the line. We opened it at Sixers -5 and they took that down to 4.5.”