August 11, 2020
Just over a week and a half ago, things were looking pretty good for the Sixers as they prepared to kick off their NBA restart schedule against the Pacers in what would be their first of eight games to determine seeding for the 2020 playoffs.
They lost that game, and in the week-plus since, they lost more than just games, they've also lost their two best players.
Ben Simmons injured his knee in their third game, a win over the Wizards, and underwent surgery on Monday that is expected to keep him out for the remainder of the season. The only pipe dream of a chance at a possible returned hinges on a possible trip to the NBA Finals for the Sixers, and even then, it would be a stretch for him to be back in game shape in time.
Then, over the weekend, those chances of the Sixers playing long enough to give Simmons a shot at returning to the court may have gone out the window when Joel Embiid rolled his ankle on the stanchion under the basket in the team's loss to the Blazers. Embiid has been ruled out for Tuesday afternoon's game against the Suns and could be sidelined again on Wednesday when Philly plays in the second leg of a back-to-back.
The team, however, has given no indication of when the big man could return to the lineup, although our Kyle Neubeck reports that the decision to keep him out of the remainder of the Blazers game — as well as the decision to rest him against Phoenix — was made out of an abundance of caution. That's promising, as was the sight of Embiid back on the bench for the second half of the Portland game, typically a sign that the injury isn't anything serious and Embiid could be back in time for the playoffs, if not earlier.
Still, oddsmakers aren't taking any chances.
Over at Fanduel, according TheLines.com, the Sixers are a whopping +8500 to win the NBA title. For comparison, they were at +2000 as recently as 10 days ago when they played their first bubble game. By Monday, FanDuel had bumped them to +5500, and a day later had moved them to their current position at +8500.
And FanDuel is hardly the only book giving the Sixers considerably longer odds than they were getting last week. Here's more from Chris Sheridan of TheLines.com, who took a closer look at the recent shift:
“We moved them from 25-1 to 60-1, because they are now dealing with the same kind of stuff they were dealing with during the regular season, and we have not seen one single bet,” said Jeff Sherman of Las Vegas SuperBook. “We have not had much action on them all season, but some of that is geographical because the sportsbooks in the East are drawing that action. We have almost no exposure on them, but we draw a lot more Lakers action than those books do.”
The geographic component to the odds is one of the twists of having a legalized US sports gambling market in which several states continue to make wagering illegal while others have embraced it. In the New York market, sports gambling commercials are omnipresent despite gambling not being allowed in the Empire State, which is because New Jersey is in the same market and has a wide-open legalized sports gambling industry along with casinos which can be visited in person or accessed online. And since South Jersey is part of the Philadelphia market, books such as DraftKings, FanDuel and PointsBet see a higher share of wagers on teams from the New York and Pennsylvania markets. [thelines.com]
DraftKings has also shown sharp movement on the Sixers. Prior to the restart, they also had the Sixers at +2000. By Monday, they were up to +5000. PointsBet also lists the Sixers at +5000.
The Sixers are currently the sixth seed in the East — where they've seen their odds for winning the conference drop from +800 to +4200 at FanDuel — and it's looking more and more likely that they'll face the Celtics in the first round after their final "regular season" game against the Rockets on Friday night.
While there seems to be a decent chance that Embiid is back for the playoffs, his current absence is still enough to play a role in altering the Sixers' postseason chances according to bookmakers. Here's more from Sheridan.
Simmons needs surgery for his dislocated knee cap, and Embiid’s recovery time from an injury that seemed less severe will play a big part in where the wagering lines are set for the likely series against the Celtics.
“Any days lost for the Sixers are going to negatively impact their chances,” said Andrew Mannino, senior sports content analyst at PointsBet, explaining why an ankle injury to Embiid – something he could conceivably come back from in time for the postseason – would prompt the book to move the odds.
“The odds are certainly drifting away from them, and they are our biggest liability in the East,” Mannino said. “What we’ve seen today is bettors looking for other angles in the East and moving to the Celtics and Raptors.” [thelines.com]
That's got to be a blow to Sixers fans, although most likely knew this was going to be the case once one of their best players went down. And when they lost the second, well, duh. Still, this isn't what the Sixers had hoped for coming into the restart. Just over a week in and they're already in the same, if not worse, position than they were in when play was halted back in March and Simmons was on the shelf with a back injury.
Can the Sixers surprise some people, especially the bookmakers, and go on a run in the playoffs? We'll find out soon enough.
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