The Philadelphia 76ers are looking to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2001, but Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks stand in the way.
The 76ers, the East’s No. 1 seed, advanced to the conference semifinals by beating the Washington Wizards in five games. The Hawks, the No. 5 seed, did the same and easily handled the Knicks four games to one.
The biggest storyline entering this series is the health of 76ers star Joel Embiid, who injured his knee in Game 4 of the Washington series. Philly won Game 5 without him, and the team is considering him day-to-day in the lead-up to the series with the Hawks, which is slated to begin Sunday afternoon.
Embiid’s status makes this series an intriguing one from a betting perspective. Embiid is an MVP finalist and would be the best player on the floor whenever he is out there. Philly still has talent, but is substantially more beatable without Embiid.
The 76ers are still the betting favorite over at BetMGM, but the odds have not overwhelmingly leaned in their direction like they may have if Embiid wee healthy. As of Thursday morning, the 76ers are listed at -190 to win the series with the Hawks as the underdogs at +155.
Those numbers have already moved in Atlanta’s favor. When the odds were first posted on Wednesday night, the Sixers were -200 and the Hawks were +170.
With Embiid sidelined on Wednesday night, the Sixers started Ben Simmons at center and moved defensive ace Matisse Thybulle into the starting lineup. And while stars like Simmons and Tobias Harris had big nights (Seth Curry also dropped 30 points), coach Doc Rivers had to get creative with some of his lineups. The Sixers received a combined 35 points from Tyrese Maxey, Dwight Howard and Furkan Korkmaz off the bench. Consistent bench scoring will be a big key for Philly as long as Embiid is unavailable.
The Hawks have a variety of threats offensively, and create quite an intriguing matchup for Philly if Embiid cannot suit up right away in the series. Young is obviously the team’s biggest star. But on nights when Young isn’t shooting well, he has a reliable collection of teammates who can score in a variety of ways. John Collins can operate both inside and outside. Bogdan Bogdanovic is a stellar 3-point shooter with the ability to create his own shot. De’Andre Hunter and Clint Capela are extremely reliable two-way players and guys like Danilo Gallinari and Kevin Huerter can provide quick scoring off the bench.
This looks like it could be a pretty tight series, and the oddsmakers clearly agree.
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