NBA Second-Half Watch: Philadelphia 76ers Leading Eastern Conference Race

Written By Dave Bontempo on March 11, 2021

Here come the Philadelphia 76ers, part 2.

The second half of the NBA season starts Thursday for a team that posted an impressive 24-12 first-half record, secured first place in the Eastern Conference, and raised title expectations for fans and New Jersey online sports bettors.

The Sixers took a  1.5 game lead over the Brooklyn Nets and two over the Milwaukee Bucks, two likely playoff obstacles, into the second half.

They start it in Chicago against the Bulls and have an active first week back. That includes:

  • March 12: at Washington Wizards
  • March 14: San Antonio Spurs
  • March 16: New York Knicks
  • March 17: Bucks

The betting line for the first two games will look slightly off.

Top players Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will both sit on Thursday versus the Bulls due to a mandatory seven-day quarantine period. That’s because of exposure to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19, according to published reports.

And as a result, neither player suited up for Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.


Embiid will reportedly be cleared to play on Friday versus the Wizards while Simmons will be cleared on Saturday, meaning he will not play versus Washington

And then, presumably, it’s all back to normal.

Here is a Sixers betting overview.

76ers remain a strong home team

They are 16-3 on the moneyline and cover roughly twice out of every three games at home. The “over” comes in at about the same percentage.  They average just under 115 points per game and yield just over 111.

The Sixers’ odds have improved significantly on the road, at least as far as the moneyline is concerned. They are 8-9 away from home, a significant upgrade over last season. This helps them cross over from being a good team into a very strong one.

And Embiid continues to prove he is the man.

The breakout season expected from the Sixers’ big man has materialized. He averaged more than 30 points and 11 rebounds per game in the first half.

In an earlier story, we mentioned that Embiid was outplaying heavy MVP favorite LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now he’s outdrawing James with the bettors too. Embiid is +200, the new MVP favorite, with James +250 at DraftKings.


The money is on Embiid

Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, said Embiid is taking the money for good reason. 

“He is playing really well. I think we can agree that we all thought Embiid would have a good season (he was one of the top-bet players before the season began), but this year he really is playing like an MVP,” Avello old Play NJ.

Embiid displayed a signature game in late February that stamps MVP credentials. When Simmons became a late scratch, Embiid carried the team on his back the last time the Sixers played the Bulls.

He tallied a career-first 50-point game and added 17 rebounds.  The Sixers needed it all in topping the Bulls 112-105.

What Embiid achieved down the stretch was impressive. With the Sixers leading by two points, he scored seven of their next eight points in a span of two and a half minutes. He also nabbed an offensive rebound, a defensive rebound, and blocked a shot.

The game hung in the balance and he took it over. That’s what potential MVPs do.

“Right now, he’s doing very well.” Avello said, “but I wouldn’t count out Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets, +450) and Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks, +1200) for the MVP. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played.”

Simmons is in the hunt for an award, too.

He is second, at +225 to Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz, -200) for the defensive player of the year. 

Philadelphia has good value for NBA title futures

The defending champion Lakers are +260 at DraftKings.

The Nets, with three of the league’s top players in Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, are +330, even with Durant missing the last nine games with a hamstring strain.

Los Angeles Clippers are next at +550.

And the Bucks (+700) and Utah Jazz (+900) followed by the Sixers (+1200) round out the top six.

Shifting over to the Eastern Conference odds, Philly +550 to win, which is good value.

Philadelphia 76ers have achieved an off-season goal

They have opened up the middle for Embiid with the three-point efficiency lacking last year.

Although the Sixers still take fewer three-point shots than most teams, they have attempted enough to give inside operating room to Embiid, Simmons, and Tobias Harris

They all are hitting well above 50% of their shots. Embiid also has places to pass the ball when he is double-teamed.

Seth Curry, obtained during the off-season to produce points from the outside, is connecting on 44.8% of his three-point attempts. He is eighth in the league with Joe Harris of Brooklyn leading the way at 50.6%,

Embiid has helped his cause, connecting at a 41.6% clip while Harris comes in at 40.2%.

Danny Green,  another off-season pickup, is clicking at 37.6%. 

Shake Milton has been a pleasant surprise. Besides shooting 31.3% from behind the arc, he is averaging a career-high 13.8 points per game average.

NBA trade deadline looming

The Sixers have won 13 straight against the Knicks, dating back to 2017. They will play twice in the next few days, March 16 in Philadelphia and March 21 at Madison Square Garden.  

The  Knicks are improving and have become one of the league’s best teams against the spread.

However, being that the second half of the NBA season is just getting underway, there are a couple of key dates on every team’s radar.

The first is the March 25 NBA trade deadline. Rumors swirl daily about different players coming to the Sixers because Philadelphia is a desired destination. 

The ante is raised because Blake Griffin, a former All-Star who averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists for the Detroit Pistons this year, just signed with the Nets.

So for some NJ online sports bettors, wagering on the Nets remains an intriguing option.

They are going all-in for a championship.

Will the Sixers answer? There’s a good chance.

The second is April 14.  That’s the next time the Sixers play the Nets.

The Sixers-Nets race will be exciting to watch, and wager, too. 

With that being said, the second-half tip to NBA betting season is underway,


Photo by AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and others. He writes about all major sports in the booming legal New Jersey sports betting industry. Dave also hosts the Why Eagles Why podcast. Dave is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame and the Atlantic City International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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