Whoa, the Sixers opened as 6.5-point favorites. Is that too high?
Or is it not enough?
Joel Embiid and the Sixers face the dangerous Washington Wizards Sunday, and the opening line for Game 1 of their first round series was Sixers -6.5, according to FanDuel.
BetMGM had the Sixers at -7 early Friday morning.
The line is sure to keep moving, but it’s a number that reflects the Sixers’ No. 1 seed and Washington’s No. 8 seed. But note that Washington closed on a 17-6 run to end the regular season.
This will be the first time the Sixers face Russell Westbrook in a postseason series. The Wizards guard has averaged a triple-double in four of the last five seasons, going back to time spent in Oklahoma City and Houston.
The Sixers won all three meetings this season against Washington, covering once when they met in March.
Washington, after a lackluster loss to Boston in their first game of the play-in, tattooed Indiana 142-115 on Thursday to earn the right to face the Sixers. Washington is the last of the East’s eight seeds. The Sixers, for the first time in a generation, are the conference’s No. 1.
Series starts Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center (1 p.m., TNT).
Two teams getting love. Sixers aren’t one of them
The Sixers are the East’s No. 1 seed for the first time since the Allen Iverson glory days.
We are now in the Joel Embiid era, with a side dish of Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris, but bettors nationally aren’t buying the Sixers. Familiarity breeds comfort in the sports betting world, and the Sixers haven’t been past the second round with this nucleus.
“The thing about the NBA is that it’s a two-trick pony out here,” said Ed Salmons, VP of risk management for Las Vegas’s Westgate SuperBook. “It’s Nets, Lakers. Nets, Lakers. That’s all it is. These teams have odds that are just so low and people continue to bet them. You can’t stop it.”
As usual, the Sixers are more popular to come out of the East at local spots, such as the Borgata in Atlantic City. But the bayside casino also has seen an unusual trend out west.
“The Nets winning the Eastern Conference would not be a bad result for us at all,” said Tom Gable, the Borgata’s director of Race & Sports book operations. “We have the most liability on the Sixers and the Knicks, with the most amount of tickets written on Philly and the second most on New York.“
Gabel said the Jazz winning the title would cost his facility, while elsewhere there is so much love for the defending champion Lakers that L.A is the first seven seed to be favored to win its first-round series over a two seed, in this case Phoenix.
But back to the East. PointsBet has the Nets as heavy chalk at -115, with the Sixers at +300, and Milwaukee at +350.
“The Sixers [to win the East] wouldn’t be a bad result at all,” said Pat Eichner, communications director for PointsBet. “The Sixers sit seventh in terms of liability to win it all.”
The percentage of money placed at PointsBet to win the championship was 38% on the Nets, 22% on the Lakers as of Thursday afternoon. Nobody else had more than 7%.
Brooklyn, the East’s No. 2 seed, has a triumvirate of stars that the public just loves throwing money at. The problem is Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving have played just eight games together since Harden was acquired from Houston in a massive trade in January. The Nets were 6-2.
They’ve had plenty of success on other teams, but this will be their first postseason run together.
By comparison, the Sixers’ top three (Embiid, Simmons, Harris) have played 37 games together this regular season. The Sixers went 31-6.
“We would do great on the Sixers,” said Salmons, of WestGate. “They have such a small amount of bets out here. We had a guy bet $50,000 on the Nets at +275 to win the championship. Every time I look at my ticker, I’ll see $5,000 on the Lakers at 4-1. It’s like non-stop on these teams.”
Reader Curt Block hit us up with the following.
Q: Has anyone posted the Sixers record with Embiid in the lineup? And against teams with winning records?
A: Here’s what we know. The Sixers were 49-23 straight up, 38-31-3 (54.9%) against the spread. They had 34 games go over the over/under total, 38 went under, according to TeamRankings.com.
According to Inquirer research, the Sixers were 28-21-2 (56.9%) against the spread with Embiid in the lineup. Overs were 25-26.
The Sixers were 4-7-1 against the spread against teams with winning records without Embiid. They were 10-10-1 with their big man.
‘Show’ me the money
NBA TV will debut a 30-minute weekly betting show on Friday, just the latest example in how far we’ve come since the Supreme Court opened the sports betting floodgates three years ago.
Experts (but hopefully not touts) will analyze BetMGM lines on the weekly show which will have a trial run through the first two rounds of the playoffs. If things go well, and there’s no reason to believe otherwise, expect expansion next season.
Odds and ends
Yankees’ righty Corey Kluber tossed the sixth, nine-inning no-hitter already this season on Wednesday night, and we’ve just past the quarter pole of this 162 season. Putting a sports-betting spin on things, here are the closing lines (in parentheses) of those games via VegasInsider.com:
April 9: Joe Musgrove, San Diego at Texas, W, 3-0 (-190).
May 19: Corey Kluber, Yankees at Texas, W, 2-0 (-170)
April 14: Carlos Rodon, White Sox vs. Cleveland, W, 8-0 (-120)
May 5: John Means, Baltimore at Seattle, W, 6-0 (-105)
May 18: Spencer Turnbull, Detroit at Seattle, W, 5-0 (+105)
May 7: Wade Miley, Cincinnati at Cleveland, W, 3-0 (+135)
April 25: Madison Bumgarner, Arizona at Atlanta (Game 2, 7 Inn.), W, 7-0 (+170)
Trend of the day
The White Sox are 23-2 in games started by opposing lefthanders since the beginning of last season. They improved to 9-2 this season after roughing up old friend J.A. Happ for six runs on Monday in a 16-4 win over the Twins. Both losses came this season against Kansas City’s Mike Minor.
Chicago starts a three-game series at the Yankees on Friday, when they’re scheduled to face lefty Jordan Montgomery (2-1, 4.75 ERA), who hasn’t faced the Chisox since 2017. The aforementioned Carlos Rodon (5-1, 1.47 ERA) is pitching for Chicago. DraftKings had Chicago as a slight -109 favorite.