Update: With the Nuggets’ win last night over the Suns, Denver has become the favorite.
When the Milwaukee Bucks lost in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs, the Boston Celtics became the new odds-on favorite to win this year’s championship. But after blowing the Celtics out on the road in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Tuesday night, the Sixers are now the title co-favorites, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
The Sixers are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers with the best championship odds at +350, while the Celtics and Denver Nuggets are right behind them at +400. The Phoenix Suns round out the top five at +600, so either they or the Nuggets might vault over the Sixers and Lakers with a win in Game 5 of their series later Tuesday night.
The Sixers are now the odds-on favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals, too. They’re a -105 to win the East, while the Celtics are +210 and the Miami Heat are +330. The New York Knicks, who are down 3-1 in their series to the Heat, are a +2500.
If the Sixers manage to close out the Celtics, they’ll be guaranteed home-court advantage throughout the NBA Finals, which is likely factoring into their odds. They went 29-12 at home during the regular season and are 3-1 at home thus far in the playoffs, with their lone loss coming to the Celtics in Game 3 of this series.
Jimmy Butler and the Heat will likely be awaiting in the Eastern Conference Finals, as they could close the Knicks out as early as Wednesday. That means the Sixers might be able to continue vanquishing their playoff demons if they can finish off their longtime playoff nemesis either on Thursday or Sunday.
Butler has been superhuman in the playoffs, as he’s averaging 33.5 points on 56.1 percent shooting, 6.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.6 three-pointers in 38.4 minutes per game. If not for Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, Butler would arguably be the MVP of the postseason thus far. However, with both Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo sidelined by injuries, the Heat’s questionable depth could become an issue in the conference finals.
It’s too early to begin fixating on a potential ECF matchup with the Heat or hypothetical Finals opponents, though. (God help us all if we get Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic.) As Doc Rivers told reporters after Game 5, the Sixers still “haven’t done anything yet.” They’ll need to keep pushing the right buttons in Game 6 on Thursday—more Danuel House Jr., anyone?—and hope the Celtics keep failing to cash in on their open looks. (Shout-out to “elite shooter” Al Horford for his zero-point, 0-of-7 shooting night.)
But if you’re currently feeling like the Sixers have never been closer to a championship in the Process era, that’s because they likely haven’t. Given the never-ending rumors about James Harden’s interest in returning to the Houston Rockets, it might be now or never for this group.