The Eastern Conference playoffs may have just gotten a whole lot harder for the Philadelphia 76ers. And now they have to right some wrongs if they want to advance.
They will play host to the Atlanta Hawks in Game 5 of their best-of-seven on Wednesday night. It tips off at 7:35 PM ET. And remember that at BetOnline, you have access to a ton of props that will take your sports betting to another dimension.
Here’s the setup:
Game 5 – NBA Eastern Conference Playoffs
ATLANTA HAWKS at PHILADELPHIA 76ERS, 7:35 PM ET (Wednesday)
NBA Playoff Betting Odds: Sixers -6.5 / Total 223.5
The biggest question surrounding Wednesday’s Game 5 between the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks involves what is going to happen with Joel Embiid. The superstar center had been absolutely dominating the Hawks in the series, averaging 35.3 points and just continuing to get to the line, where he is extremely accurate for a big man.
The elephant in the room amidst all of this was that Embiid has been playing with a torn meniscus, which actually kept him on the sidelines for a couple of games in the previous series against Washington.
That’s the kind of injury that can come back and bite you at any time, especially if you continue to play. And apparently that is what happened to Embiid as his Sixers were trying to go up three games to one on Monday night. He not only experienced pain; he actually had to leave the floor and go to the locker room at one point.
In the second half, he went 0-for-12 from the field. And ESPN turned to its stat people and figured out that it was the first performance with that many attempts and no field goals in a half in 25 years.
The issue with Embiid was that he wasn’t getting any elevation as he went up for a shot. And so they were falling short. There are no back-to-back situations in the playoffs this year, but there is only one game in between in order to rest and get some treatment, so you’re kind of rolling the dice with him as Game 5 approaches.
So are the Sixers, who can’t necessarily afford not to have him out there. They have been outscored by opponents to the tune of 13 points per 100 possessions without Embiid on the floor.
And while this may be completely applicable, they are 11-12 when he doesn’t play. So they are just barely at playoff level.
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If Ben Simmons was at his best, or near his best, this wouldn’t be such a huge problem. But Simmons has a dilemma. We talked about this before the last game, as the fact of the matter is that he can’t hit his free throws. He was 60% during the regular season, which is pretty consistent with his career numbers. But he has developed this mental block, it seems, during the postseason. Simmons was one for five at the charity stripe in Game 4, bringing his playoff total to 18 of 53, which is 34%.
Even during the “Hack-a-Shaq” days, it was rarely if ever this bad. The lowest Shaquille O’Neal ever shot from the line in the regular season was 46%. And while he had been held below 40% seven times in 44 playoff series, only once did he do that for two series in a row.
So what you have there is the makings of a defensive strategy for Atlanta coach Nate McMillan. And even though this team misses defensive ace DeAndre Hunter, it goes without saying that if Embiid is still being bothered by his knee, it makes it easier for a guy like Clint Capela, who is not at all incapable.
It isn’t out of line to lean toward the underdog here, because we DO expect the Hawks to get physical with Embiid and Simmons.
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