The Brooklyn Nets travel to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers where they are 7.5 point underdogs
The Brooklyn Nets will be going up against their division rival for just the second time this season. The last time these two teams faced off, the Nets blew the doors off the 76ers at home, winning the game by a final score of 109 to 89. The 76ers were without Joel Embiid in that matchup, and they are expected to be without him again after the former Kansas big man had surgery on his left hand less than a week ago, so I believe the Nets will be heading into a favorable matchup.
To be frank, it has not been an ideal start to the season for the Nets, who made a huge splash in free agency last off-season by signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The Nets will be without Durant for basically the entire season, but Kyrie Irving has been dealing with his own nagging injuries throughout most of the year. The former number one overall pick has only played in two games since the beginning of January. With that being said, it appears that Kyrie is finally healthy. He had a fantastic outing on January 14th, putting up 32 points on 12 baskets in 118-107 loss to the Utah Jazz. If the Nets want to win this one, they will likely have to rely on Kyrie to score a lot and draw attention away from the Brooklyn big men.
The problem with the Nets is that they just aren’t hitting their shots at a very high clip. Brooklyn is 23rd in overall field goal percentage and they rank 28th in three point percentage. This could be disastrous against a 76ers team that currently is in the top ten in field goal percentage this season.
In all likelihood though, this game will have to be won in the paint. The Nets are already grabbing more rebounds per game than the 76ers. Factor in the absence of Joel Embiid, and this game could be a blowout similar to what we saw back in December. Al Horford will likely have to step up while Embiid is out. That wouldn’t be a big deal against most NBA teams since Al Horford is a serviceable center and a very solid NBA player. I worry though that the onslaught of tenacious, young big men playing for the Nets will be too much for the 33 year old to handle. In fact, the last time these two teams faced off without Joel Embiid, Al Horford was held to just 10 points and recorded a +/- of -13, the second worst plus-minus of any 76er that played in the game! I expect the big men for Brooklyn to have a field day in this one.
Not only do I think the Nets will cover the spread, I think they will win this game outright! I am actually shocked that the Vegas sportsline favors the 76ers in this game without Embiid. Ben Simmons is a special player and Al Horford is also pretty good, but Joel Embiid is the heart and soul of this Philadelphia 76ers team. Philly is an unimpressive 4-5 this season in games that Joel Embiid does not play in. Add a healthy Kyrie Irving to an already impressive Nets roster, and I expect this game will go in favor of Brooklyn.