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Sixers vs. Celtics prediction: Bet on Boston to post blowout win in Game 7

Without an epic performance from James Harden, Philly’s season will end Sunday with a lopsided defeat

Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid (left) and James Harden (right) head into Boston for Sunday's Game 7 against the Celtics as a decided underdog. If they can score an upset, the Sixers will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid (left) and James Harden (right) head into Boston for Sunday's Game 7 against the Celtics as a decided underdog. If they can score an upset, the Sixers will advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)Read moreTimothy Nwachukwu / Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers can take several positives into Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics:

  1. They’re 4-1 on the road in the playoffs, including two victories in Boston (site of Sunday’s winner-take-all contest).

  2. They own the NBA’s best road record for the entire season.

  3. And they have lost consecutive games just once since the end of March.

Now for the negatives: The 76ers blew a chance to close out Boston at home Thursday, necessitating Sunday’s Game 7. They have lost five consecutive playoff series to the Celtics over the last four decades. And they’re 1-9 all time on the road in Game 7s.

However, that one Game 7 road triumph occurred in the Boston Garden back in 1982, the last time Philadelphia knocked off their rivals in the postseason.

Can the Sixers replicate that 1982 magic Sunday? Doubtful. Can they at least deliver a competitive effort? Also doubtful.

Odds updated as of 12:15 p.m. ET on May 12.

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76ers vs. Celtics Prediction: Pick

  1. Celtics -7, -112 (at FanDuel)

  2. Note: Stick with this bet up to Celtics -8

76ers vs. Celtics Prediction: Analysis

When a visiting team shoots just 42% from the field, commits 18 turnovers, has only 16 free-throw attempts and its best player misses 13 of his first 14 shots — all in a do-or-die playoff game — that team is supposed to lose.

That’s what the Celtics and All-Star forward Jayson Tatum did in Game 6 on Thursday in Philadelphia.

Except Tatum and the Celtics didn’t lose. Rather, they gutted out a season-saving 95-86 victory.

How did Boston overcome all those deficiencies? Because the 76ers shot just 36% from the field, missed 26 of 34 attempts from three-point range and finished minus-12 in the rebounding department.

Oh, and because only two players — center Joel Embiid and shooting guard Tyrese Maxey — bothered to show up.

Embiid and Maxey each scored 26 points and combined to make 18 of 39 shots (46.2%). The rest of the team went 12-for-44 (27.3%) and tallied a total of 34 points.

Philadelphia’s biggest offender: Who else but James Harden?

» READ MORE: Opinion: James Harden cost the Sixers Game 6 and blamed the refs. He faces a do-or-die Game 7.

The All-Star point guard went 4-for-10 from inside the arc and 0-for-6 from behind it. And while he delivered nine assists and three steals, he also committed a game-high five turnovers.

As we said early on in this series, the 76ers’ success — and lack thereof — is tied not to Embiid but Harden.

When the former NBA MVP has been on, Philadelphia has won. He scored 45 points in a Game 1 road victory, 42 points in a Game 4 home victory and 17 points (along with eight rebounds and 10 assists) in a Game 5 road victory.

Harden’s shooting percentages in those three contests: 60.7% overall (37-for-61) and 56% from 3-point distance (14-for-25).

In three losses, though, Harden has averaged 15 points and made just 9 of 44 shots — including just 2 of 19 from deep.

So handicapping Game 7, at least from Philadelphia’s perspective, isn’t exactly rocket science. If Harden plays to his immense potential, the Sixers will have a solid chance to win. And if he doesn’t, they have zero chance.

Newsflash: “Clutch performer in must-win games” isn’t something that will be written on Harden’s Hall of Fame plaque.

» READ MORE: Sixers squander historic opportunity in bonkers environment. In Game 7, shots need to fall.

To be blunt, believing that Harden will rise to the occasion Sunday in Boston requires a major leap of faith we’re not willing to take — not with our bankroll, anyway.

Besides, if the Celtics can escape on the road in a must-win game with Tatum starting out 1-for-14 overall and 0-for-7 from beyond the arc, it’s difficult to see them blowing Game 7 on their home floor.

As for covering a hefty point spread, well, Boston’s three victories in this series were by margins of 34, 12 and nine points. Its last 16 victories dating back to St. Patrick’s Day have been by at least eight points.

And the straight-up winner has covered the point spread in each of the Celtics’ last 15 games (including all 12 in the playoffs).

The straight-up winner also is 11-0-1 ATS in Philadelphia’s last dozen contests.

Yes, three of those were upset wins over the Celtics in this series, including two in Boston.

Can the Sixers spring one more upset Sunday? Sure — if Harden comes through. But, again, that’s not something we can recommend wagering on.

76ers vs. Celtics Odds (via FanDuel):

  1. Point spread: 76ers (+7, -108) @ Celtics (-7, -112)

  2. Moneyline: 76ers (+230) @ Celtics (-280)

  3. Total: 202.5 points

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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