The Philadelphia 76ers are the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, and they will take on the No. 6-seeded Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs.
Brooklyn deserves a ton of credit for securing a top-six spot in the East, as the team traded away both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant at the trade deadline this season.
Yet, the Nets held off the Miami Heat for the No. 6 spot, mainly because of the strong play of Mikal Bridges. In 27 games for Brooklyn, Bridges averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
He looks like a potential All-Star, but he’s going to have to face MVP favorite Joel Embiid, former MVP James Harden and rising star Tyrese Maxey in this series.
The Nets are a scrappy bunch, and Nic Claxton is one of the better players to have to guard Embiid, but Brooklyn is a massive underdog in the latest series odds:
Nets vs. Sixers series odds
Nets vs. Sixers series handicap odds
Nets vs. Sixers prediction and pick
Over the last few seasons, Philly has fallen short of expectations in the playoffs on several occasions.
However, I don’t see that being the case this time around.
The Nets are a scrappy group, but they don’t exactly come into the postseason with the best profile in the world.
Since the All-Star break, the team is just 24th in the NBA in offensive rating and 19th in net rating. Philadelphia is third and fifth in the NBA in those categories.
Brooklyn also doesn’t have an edge shooting the ball. The team is just 22nd in the league in effective field goal percentage since the break. The Sixers? Well, they come in sixth in that statistic.
These teams played twice after the trade deadline, but one game was the final matchup of the regular season and the other was just two days after the deadline, so there’s not much to read into either game. Philly did win all four matchups between the teams this season.
Ultimately, I think a healthy Embiid will be too much to handle, regardless of how Harden plays. Remember, the Sixers dominated the Toronto Raptors in the first round last season before Embiid was forced to miss time with a facial injury.
While the new-look Nets outperformed expectations in the second half of the season, they aren’t going to win this series. I think Philly can get the job done in five or six games.
Odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.