Written by Drew Bishop

 

PHO @ PHI U 217.5

Get ready for a slugfest at the Wells Fargo Center.

 

Tonight’s marquee matchup brings the best team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, to Philadelphia to face the 76ers. This game pits an unstoppable force, Joel Embiid, against an immovable object, the Phoenix defense.

 

On one hand, Embiid has been nothing short of elite this season. His level of play has been elevated to a level many believed he could reach, but doubted his body would stay healthy enough to maintain. Now, he is arguably in his apex form, averaging about 30 points and 11 boards on 50% shooting. The 76ers are 18-5 when Embiid scores 30 or more, they need him to be successful. The star big man’s ascension has also improved the supporting cast. Maxey and Curry work well with the rim roller and have found their value skyrocketing as the trade deadline approaches.

 

On the other hand, Monty Williams and the Suns have established a team that scarcely shows weakness. Phoenix ranks 2nd in offensive efficiency and 4th in defensive rating. The 2021 Western Conference champs have returned with a fury despite losing some key contributors for certain points of the year. One of those key contributors was center DeAndre Ayton, who has returned after a lengthy absence due to a right ankle sprain. Ayton is a solid defender with a 103.0 defensive rating. He will represent Embiid’s biggest test down low in over two weeks.

 

This back-and-forth discourse scares me away from betting either side in a pick ‘em. The Sixers are at home, but the Suns are the more complete team. The Suns are coming off a back-to-back, but the Sixers have not looked as strong recently, going 1-2 in February.

 

That’s why we’ll be betting on both teams to grind it out to an under. Not only is Phoenix ranked 4th in the league in defense, they’re also top-10 in opposing points in the paint. The 76ers will still get Embiid his touches, but they’ll be less easy to turn into points than Sunday against a flimsy Vucevic and Chicago defense. Doc Rivers runs a methodical offense, ranking 26th in the league in pace, so don’t expect him to speed up possessions on the Suns’ account. The Sixers defense has been solid, ranking 11th in defensive rating, but expect them to hunker down even more for this game. Matisse Thybulle is questionable due to shoulder soreness, but if he plays (probably will), he’s likely to receive the Devin Booker assignment. Booker is on fire, scoring 30+ in 3 of his last 4, a big key to the Suns offense. Just like Ayton with Embiid, if anyone is to stop Booker, it will be Matisse.

 

On top of all this, Phoenix is on a back-to-back road trip, having to fly out to Philadelphia after winning in Chicago last night. Expect tired legs after Booker (38mp) and Chris Paul (34mpg) left it all out there for the three-point win.

 

As much as I’d love to have a side on the best game of Tuesday’s slate, these teams are too unpredictable in this spot. The 76ers are 31-21-1 to the under this season, while the Suns are 28-25. I expect both teams to add another tally to those unders tonight at 217.5, or teased at 221.5.

Mikal Bridges O 12.5 points/O 20.5 PRA

I wonder what Zhaire Smith is doing right now?

 

Yes I know it hurts Sixers fans, but today we’re tailing a prop from the one who got away, Mikal Bridges.

 

It’s no secret that the 76ers gave up a chance to have one of the best three-and-d ballers in the league, even though he was from a college 40 minutes away from the WFC. Now that he’s in Phoenix, the young forward has been balling and is setting himself up for a big payday this offseason or next.

 

I find Bridges to be a compelling prop option tonight because of how I project the 76ers matching up. Matisse Thybulle will likely get the Devin Booker assignment, while Tyrese Maxey hangs with Chris Paul. This leaves an assortment of weaker defenders like Tobias Harris and Furkan Korkmaz to be on Bridges. If Matisse is ruled out, the court opens up even more for the Suns, specifically players who won’t be a defensive focal point like Booker.

 

Over the last 10 games, Bridges is averaging 37.5 mpg and 16.8 ppg on 58% shooting, all above his season averages. He’s commanded 4th-most usage on the team. Phoenix has relied on him more than ever and tonight should be more of the same.

 

Bridges points sits at 12.5 tonight, suspiciously low. He’s hit the over 5 of the last 6 games. His PRA is set at 20.5, he’s also hit the over in those 5 of the last 6. I’m betting on those trends to continue, while Booker and Paul spend most of the night deferring out of their tough defensive matchups.

P.S. Zhaire Smith is on Cameo, book him for $50 today! https://www.cameo.com/zhaire_smith?qid=1644355106

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