76ers vs. Suns Odds
|10 p.m. ET
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Saturday night gives us a potential NBA Finals preview — though in name and jersey only.
The Philadelphia 76ers are rolling. They’ve won nine of their last 10 and are 37-13 since the start of December with a +6.5 Net Rating, both tops in the NBA. The Sixers are the East 3-seed right now, but still pushing hard with the 1-seed still in reach — and maybe a big individual award, too.
The Phoenix Suns are the favorites in the Western Conference, but not this version. The Suns got good news on Friday when word came out that Kevin Durant is expected back next week, but he’s still out for this one and so too is Deandre Ayton.
As Jim Turvey noted in his Friday Suns preview, Phoenix has stayed somewhat afloat without Durant, but missing him plus a second starter has left the Suns threadbare and struggling mightily.
There’s another reason this is a potential Finals preview in name only — it’s the dregs of March and both teams are on the second night of a back-to-back.
Joel Embiid (calf) and James Harden (Achilles) were both listed as questionable on Friday and are a threat to sit any back-to-back. Harden ultimately sat Friday as Embiid played, so we’ll see if we get the opposite result Saturday night.
We’ll have to navigate carefully and wait for injury news before making any wager.
It goes without saying that the presence of Embiid and Harden — or potential lack thereof — drastically changes everything about this team.
The duo is worth around seven or eight points to the spread, so we can take our cue on what books expect from Philadelphia on the opening spread. If Phoenix is listed as a clear favorite even without Durant and Ayton, it likely means one or both of Embiid and Harden are expected to be out.
Even if Embiid and Harden are sidelined, Philadelphia will find a way to score. Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris have done well ramping up their usage in the absence of stars around them, and each one has a positive point differential even without Embiid and Harden on the court — a testament to this team’s defense and depth.
There’s one clear advantage the 76ers have, and that’s at the line. Philadelphia leads the league in free throws made and free throw percentage, and they’re second in attempt rate.
Phoenix ranks last defensively in free throws allowed. Of course, Harden, and especially Embiid, are responsible for a bulk of that advantage, but it could be trouble for the Suns if those two get to the line all night.
Devin Booker continues to roll through an incredible March.
He’s scoring 34.0 points per game with at least 28 in all but one of his 10 games through Thursday, with at least 32 in seven of them (70%). That sets a very high floor for Booker’s points prop, though books have adjusted his line accordingly.
It’s worth noting Booker has at least 36 points in four of Phoenix’s five wins during this stretch — he’s maxed out at 33 points in the five losses. With Durant and Ayton out, and with Chris Paul no longer a top scorer and the team lacking depth, this Suns offense goes as Devin Booker does.
If you like the Sixers to win, consider a Booker under. A Suns side would imply a Booker points over or even alternate over. That sets up an excellent correlated Same Game Parlay opportunity.
Landry Shamet also returned this week after a two-month absence. He scored 25 points in his first two games back and could be a pivot if you don’t want to play Booker. Shamet threes could also be a play. He’s attempted 12 treys in these first two games, with three makes in each.
The Suns have struggled mightily on the road this season, especially without Durant, but they’ve been much better at home. If one or both of Philadelphia’s stars sit, Phoenix will be favored and should get the win. That would shape up as a spot to parlay a Phoenix win with a Booker points over.
If Philadelphia does play its starters, you have to like them here, especially with the huge free-throw advantage and the Suns stuck with Bismack Biyombo defending Embiid in that scenario.
Philadelphia has 25 wins this season by double digits, and a full-strength effort would give them a good shot at another one against a short-handed Suns squad.
You’re going to have to wait for a clear injury report before you pick a side, and there’s enough uncertainty in the injury reports and late-season motivations that it’s probably not worth playing a traditional angle. Either play an aggressive angle with plus juice to make it worth your risk or just stay away altogether.
Pick: Wait for Philadelphia injury news and play a plus-juice angle accordingly. Or just stay away from this game.
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