The sports calendar can toss fuel on an existing fire. Roughly one month after their blockbuster Feb. 10 trade, the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets square off Thursday night (March 10) at the Wells Fargo Center.
However, this isn’t just another game.
It’s the first meeting since the Sixers sent the disgruntled Ben Simmons, along with Seth Curry and Andre Drummond to the Nets for superstar James Harden and backup Paul Millsap. Draft picks were added to complete the deal.
Thursday’s matchup was circled as the trade’s first analytical rendezvous point for Sixers fans and New Jersey online bettors.
76ers backers are anxious to compare. They enjoy a 5-0 moneyline record and a 4-1 mark against the spread with their new superstar in the lineup.
How would that match with the suddenly-dreary Nets, who have gone 3-17 since mid-January yet remain highly backed in sportsbook futures.
Ben Simmons sighting at Wells Fargo Center
For 76ers bettors looking forward to seeing Simmons suit up for the Nets Thursday night, keep waiting. The Nets decided to protect Simmons and he won’t play. However, he is scheduled to be on the bench.
It’s expected that Simmons will be booed early on, but not nearly as often as if he fed the frenzy with, say, missed free throws. A slew of them by him in the 2021 playoffs, part of the Sixers’ upset loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the playoffs, launched his exit.
After fan and media backlash, Simmons refused to play and was traded.
Now he’s back…sort of.
Although the Nets will keep Simmons out of the spotlight, trade comparisons are inevitable.
After one month, the verdict is obvious: Sixers go. Nets no.
Here’s a wagering perspective on each team entering the matchup.
76ers bettors are feasting since James Harden’s arrival
When Harden plays, the Sixers are averaging victories by more than 16 points. The latest triumph came Monday night against the Chicago Bulls 121-106.
Something special happens whenever Harden steps on the court, which appeals not only to fans but prop bettors.
Monday night, it was the 14 assists, as the Sixers won and covered -7.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook.
Harden also was the book’s most highly-played prop at +125 to collect at least three three-pointers. He only had one this time but was nonetheless the betting magnet of the national DraftKings community
Harden had 25 points and 11 assists when the Sixers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 125-119 without covering eight points last Friday night.
He delivered 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists when the Sixers at -9 beat the New York Knicks 123-108 last week.
It was 29 points, 10 rebounds and 16 assists for him in a 125-109 road victory against the Knicks, for which the Sixers covered the -7.5-point line during the last day of February.
Harden began his Sixers career with 27 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds in a 133-102 victory and road cover against the Minnesota Timberwolves just after the All-Star break.
Philadelphia 76ers betting nuggets
For Sixers fans and gamblers, that’s been the thrilling part of the Harden saga.
But they must be aware of something else down the stretch of the regular season. He might not play on back-to-back nights
After the Cleveland game last Friday, Harden sat on Saturday and the Sixers offense floundered in a 99-82 setback to the Miami Heat. Many New Jersey sports bettors smartly went the other way on this one, taking the Heat -5.
The next time bettors must consider this scenario is the Sunday-Monday matchups, in which the Sixers visit the Orlando Magic Sunday and host the Denver Nuggets on Monday.
The logical one to skip, if Harden does, is Saturday. In any case, bettors want to confirm lineups before making selections.
And here’s another trend bettors want to digest.
The over-under total for Sixers games has shot up substantially under Harden. The Sixers were under the 210 total in many of their previous games but that was 232 last night and 70% of the DraftKings bettors took the over. It was a victory for the under.
The Sixers romped to four “over” victories in Harden’s first four games, but the rising totals make the numbers harder to hit.
Harden proving to be a gem
There is no doubt Harden is a playmaker. More importantly, he has unleashed MVP candidate Joel Embiid, enabling the big man to explode for 43 points against the Bulls, and routinely be in the vicinity of 30 points with Harden feeding him.
Harden has also aided the emergence of Tyrese Maxey, who has already produced a 33-point effort in the Harden era. Maxey to go over 17.5 points was the third-highest prop at DraftKings Monday night. He fell just short, at 17 points.
Harden, who received an electrifying ovation from Sixers fans for his first home game last week, has been what the Sixers traded for.
Brooklyn Nets resembling a gigantic flat tire
Never in the history of slumps has a 3-17 tailspin produced such a collective yawn.
But that’s what’s happened in Brooklyn.
There has been no pressure to play Simmons, who they traded for. It’s one thing to be hurt, but he’s been off since last June. He’s being coddled and Simmons won’t even step up his practice timetable until after this game.
One would think his timetable is next season.
As Brooklyn ignores its free fall, it props up the betting odds of other teams. That can’t last much longer.
The Nets are still a shorter price than the Sixers to win the Eastern Conference and the NBA, despite the 3-17 skid that brought them from 29-16 to 32-33.
Think about that number. Since the middle of January, the Nets are one of the worst teams in the NBA (the Houston Rockets have only two wins over this span)
And they are still a short price.
76ers NBA championship odds at NJ sportsbooks
Nets prop Sixers betting odds up
At DraftKings, the Phoenix Suns (+380) and Golden State Warriors (+450) are the two favorites to win the NBA title. The Nets were next at +475.
The Sixers were +650 and the defending world-champion Milwaukee Bucks were +800.
The reaction in Brooklyn to the team falling below .500? Zero.
There’s a belief that Simmons, along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, will make the Nets formidable in the postseason.
That’s a big ask.
The Eastern Conference tells a similar story.
The Nets entered the week at +260, the favorite.
The Sixers had tightened up to +340, down from +380 not long ago.
The Bucks were +370.
And we can’t ignore the red-hot Boston Celtics, who were +950 and now +850.
The Celtics, once 25-25, began the week at 39-27, a 14-2 run that included a 48-point blowout of the Harden-less Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center a couple of weeks ago.