The Sixers squandered a golden opportunity on Monday, allowing a moribund Orlando Magic unit to claw their way back from a 21-point hole in Philadelphia. Had the Sixers just taken care of business, they’d be in sole possession of second place in the East, and sit two games behind the Boston Celtics for the Conference’s top seed. As it stands now, they’re in third place, and three games behind the Green and White, and a full game behind the Milwaukee Bucks.
There’s a long way to go, but unfortunately, the Sixers’ schedule gets much harder than the team with the fifth-worst record in the NBA beyond Wednesday. They’ll have a shot at redemption vs. Paolo Banchero and the dreaded Franz and Mo Wagner brothers tonight, but a little bit of damage has been done. Despite the optics, a win vs. the Magic counts the same as a win vs. Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.
But while they’re busy looking to serve up cold dishes of revenge, ESPN will feature a showdown between the Kevin Durant-less Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics. So there’s some good news here. At least one of these teams will lose! Who should the Sixers be rooting for and against? Root for the separation between the 76ers and Nets to grow before Durant returns? Or root for Irving to knock the East’s top team down a peg? I find myself pulling for Kyrie from a Sixers fan lens.
Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics (Boston -9, Money Line -390)
Kyrie Irving has been absolutely lethal since Durant went down. In the nine games he’s played without KD, he’s erupted for 31.4 points, 7.2 assists and 5.9. All of these talking heads who say Durant should have stayed in Golden State because Irving is unreliable and mercurial and all that miss the fact that KD wanted to win a title without Steph Curry’s Warriors to cement his own legacy. And it’s not as if he overestimated Irving’s on-court talent one bit.
The size of this line worries me a little that maybe Irving will spend extra time on the bench trailing by double-digits. There’s certainly blowout potential here. But you know the Boston crowd gets on the former Celtic No. 11 and he tends to rise to the occasion in hostile, high pressure environments. Remember #RamadanKyrie gave Boston all they could eat in Game 1 of the playoffs last season.
In a Single Game Parlay, give me Boston’s alternative line (-2.5, -290). Then I want Irving’s over 31.5 points (+115), because even if he doesn’t log a full portion of minutes, Marcus Smart being ruled out should let him cook just a wee bit more. No Smart also means that the Celtics will ask more from newcomer Malcolm Brogdon. In Smart-less games the former Buck and Pacer is averaging 14.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in 29 minutes an outing. This makes his over 4.5 dimes (+125) worth toggling on too.
That ought to take some of the sting out of a likely Celtics victory.
If you wanted to go absolutely wild this evening, tack on Grant Williams to drain two triples and we’re now getting +2200 on this whole thing. Williams averages 31 minutes and 4.7 three point attempts in games the reigning DPOY sits out. If that is too risky for ya, then instead go for Derrick White to hit one three (-575) and Nic Claxton to score 12 or more (-245). White has hit two or more triples in his last four outings, and Clax is playing the best basketball of his young career and figures to continue with Ben Simmons out nursing left knee soreness.
That version (Celtics -2.5, Brogdon over 4.5 dimes, Brodgon over 4.5 boards, Kyrie 32 or more points, White drains a triple, and Clax hits 12 points) pays +1800.
No Devin Booker in the lineup and Trae Young probable but perhaps limited with an ankle makes this one a lot less exciting on paper.
Still, if you’re a night owl, you can look to make some cash. The Suns have won six of seven despite not having D-Book since Christmas. Murray is coming off his best performance in the uniform having recorder 40 points, eight boards, and seven dimes in a loss to Portland, forced to do some heavy lifting without Young.
I’m going to pay up for the alternative line of Suns +5.5 (-260). I’ll take Chris Paul’s over 16.5 points (-140). Atlanta gives up the second-most DraftKings fantasy points to power forwards in the league, and with Deandre Ayton back from his illness, I think he takes advantage of that void in the defensive front court. We’ll take Ayton’s 8.5 rebounds (-320). Cam Johnson averages 15 points and 5 boards without D-Book. So I like him to bounce back from his stinker vs. Toronto Monday and get us 14.5 or more points (-110). That should correlate well with our CP3 over -7.5 (-425) dimes too. Even with Young back, I think Murray over 18.5 points is too easy (-165). We’re at +370 on that SGP and we’ll call it a night.