There are any number of ways to feel about the 76ers’ 12-9 record as the first quarter of the NBA season ends.
You can be disappointed that they’re one win off the pace required to hit the over on their preseason win total of 50.5. You can be pleased that they’re a lot closer to that pace than they were on Thanksgiving thanks to a current three-game winning streak.
You can be annoyed that they’ve dropped games to the likes of the Spurs and Hornets and have at no point played like a serious title contender. You can be impressed that they’ve stayed afloat while Joel Embiid has missed eight games, Tyrese Maxey has missed six, and James Harden has missed nine — and that they turned away a full-strength Brooklyn Nets team a week ago without any of those three top scorers.
And you can have decidedly mixed feelings about the fact that they have failed to put together a disastrous enough losing streak to cost coach Doc Rivers his job.
Now this Sixers squad rolls into Cleveland against a Cavaliers team that is one game ahead of them in the standings, is also diminished by injuries, but is generally on the rise. Is this a crossroads clash between a team at the beginning of a lengthy run as a title contender and another team nearing the end of one?
With no Harden, no Maxey, and no Jarrett Allen or Kevin Love for Cleveland, Tuesday’s game won’t provide many meaningful answers. But it could prove pivotal to bettors holding a Sixers over ticket — of which there are many.
Past futures and present futures
At win totals of 50.5 or 51.5, depending on the sportsbook, the 76ers’ over was among the most popular bets across the country before the season began. Heading into Tuesday’s game, they were on pace for 46.8 wins. To get to 51, they’d need to go 39-22 (a 63.9% win rate) the rest of the way.
Not surprisingly, the Sixers’ other futures odds have lengthened modestly since the season began.
At opening tip, their championship odds were the seventh shortest in the NBA at most books, between +1300 and +1500. On Tuesday morning, they were priced anywhere from +1800 (PointsBet) to +2400 (FanDuel).
Philly began the season fourth on the odds board to win the Eastern Conference with a high price of +750. Through 21 games, they were between +900 (DraftKings) and +1100 (FanDuel). As it happens, the one team that had moved ahead of them at some sportsbooks — or pulled exactly even at others — was Cleveland.
One market that has seen the Sixers’ odds tumble dramatically is to win the Atlantic Division during the regular season. They were priced from +260 to +300 before the season started. As of Tuesday, trailing the Boston Celtics and their NBA-best 17-4 record by 5 games in the standings, the Sixers were as high as +1800 at FanDuel to catch up.
Other wide-eyed preseason bets on the Sixers — such as No. 1 seed in the East (+500), most wins in the NBA (+1100), and most wins at the all-star break (+550) — are just about drawing dead. Whether postseason success does or doesn’t await this team, it clearly isn’t going to be that kind of regular season.
Of course, before anyone can think about postseason success, the team has to get there. The Sixers were +750 to miss the playoffs before the season. Barstool Sportsbook and other operators using Kambi odds had dropped that number to +300 as of Tuesday, while PointsBet would pay +400.
A player prop to ‘Shake’ things up
Most books favor the Cavs by 3.5 on their home court Tuesday night against a Sixers team still missing both members of its starting backcourt. (Maxey is likely out about two more weeks with a small fracture in his left foot, while Harden appears closer to returning from a tendon strain in his right foot.) The best moneyline price on a Sixers win is +143 at Caesars. The over/under for the game varies between 211 and 211.5.
There’s one player prop that jumps out for the Cavs game. Shake Milton, a starting guard in the absence of both Harden and Maxey, has averaged 33.8 minutes and 23.1 points over the last six games. All the Pennsylvania books have set his scoring line in Cleveland at 16.5. He’s exceeded that in five of the last six games, and his low output was 16 against the Nets last Tuesday.
It could be a fun over to bet using PointsBetting, with which gamblers win or lose a particular amount per point that the wager goes over or under. The over line for that market at PointsBet is 17 — so if Milton equals his six-game low of 16 points, a bettor loses one unit, and if Shake equals his high of 29, the customer wins 12 units.
Speaking of PointsBet, the sportsbook announced its next series of 76ers BetCast dates Tuesday morning, in partnership with NBC Sports Philadelphia.
The betting-focused alternative broadcasts, available on NBC Sports Philadelphia Plus and featuring host Michael Barkann, analyst Jim Lynam, and former PointsBet oddsmaker Jay Croucher, return Friday, Dec. 2, against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Sixers will be underdogs in that one, but they figure to be favored in planned BetCast games against Detroit on Dec. 21, Orlando on Jan. 30, and Indiana on March 6.
Photo: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY