Eastern Conference action here as the Philadelphia 76ers prepare to take on the Indiana Pacers in each of these teams' 2020 debuts. Both sides are locked for the playoffs, but seeding is very much up in the air as these squads are currently tied for the fifth seed in the east. Oddsmakers have the 76ers as a sizable favorite for this one.
New Look 76ersThe 76ers might look with a brand new team when we see them take the floor for the first time since the restart. They've been experimenting with Ben Simmons at power forward, and I'm very curious to see how it turns out. The 76ers were amazing at home but awful on the road this season, which could work against them, since obviously they won't have a crowd to fire them up. That being said, there are also plenty of reasons for optimism. Guard Shake Milton came out of nowhere the last few weeks to suddenly become a huge part of the offense, averaging over 19 points per game over their final seven contests.
One of Shake Milton's most important qualities for the Sixers: he's confident from 3 and can shoot off the bounce pic.twitter.com/JmHsUeRaQv— Tom West (@TomWestNBA) July 26, 2020
If he can keep that up that gives them another elite scoring option, and this offense is going to be pretty hard to stop. Joel Embiid is having another fantastic season while averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds per game, while Tobias Harris and Simmons are both averaging at least 17 per game as well. Embiid had been dealing with a little bit of a calf issue, but he wasn't listed on the final injury report for this game and should be a full go. I haven't even mentioned Al Horford, who gives Philadelphia another elite big that will pose some trouble for Indiana's shorthanded frontcourt.
Pacers Banged UpThis Indiana Pacers team is a tough one to gauge at the moment, and they have had a lot of things working against them recently. They've had some bad injury luck, and star guard at Victor Oladipo wasn't himself when he returned from his devastating leg injury in February. Oladipo originally said he wasn't going to play during the restart, but then changed his mind. He has since waffled back and forth, and hasn't committed one way or the other. It looks like he is probably going to play, but his heart isn't in it so it seems.
Indiana could be down there entire starting backcourt for this game, as Malcolm Brogdon is questionable due to a new injury that just popped up. Young power forward Domantas Sabonis, who had been having a breakout season this year, unfortunately, suffered a foot injury during practice and has left the Orlando bubble to see a specialist. Either way the Pacers are going to be missing a huge part of their team, and this squad just has an air of complacency around it right now. I don't think that they think they can seriously compete in the playoffs, and I'm not sure if they will be going all out during the restart as a result. Oladipo looked mostly awful during the scrimmages that preceded real games, shooting 4-16 from the field in his last exhibition action.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: 76ers are:
- 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite
- 1-9-1 ATS in their last 11 Saturday games
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I like the 76ers a lot here, and I don't think this game is going to be particularly close. The Sixers have a new weapon in Shake Milton, and I think moving Ben Simmons to power forward will work wonders for this offense. Indiana has been bit by the injury bug, and at the very least they will be without Sabonis here. Oladipo doesn't seem like his heart is in this, as he has repeatedly waffled on whether or not he's going to play at all. Philadelphia will have a lot more energy, and that's arguably the most important thing in these unusual circumstances.
Prediction: 76ers -5.5
Full-Game Total Pick
The under also make some sense in this spot. Indiana is a gritty team that prefers to win with their defense anyways, and now they won't have any choice. Not having Sabonis greatly limits their offense, and they're going to attempt to win a defensive struggle here. Philadelphia allowed the third-fewest points per game of any team in the NBA this season, and I think their offense could take some time to adjust with Simmons playing a new position. This one should be pretty sleepy.