In handicapping the Philadelphia/Minnesota contest in the NBA on Friday (January 28th), I was looking closely at playing the Over until discovering that Joel Embiid was questionable with a sore back. The possibility that the Sixers would be without Embiid prompting to investigate how they have performed with their star center so far this season.
Embiid has not played in four of their first 19 games going into that contest on the road against the Timberwolves. Philadelphia lost all four games. On December 27th, they lost at Cleveland by a 118-94 score. On January 9th, they lost at home to Denver, 115-103. On January 16th, the Sixers lost at Memphis by a 106-104 score. Then on January 25th, they lost at Denver, 119-104. The average score of those losses was 115-101.3. The 76ers have a field goal percentage of 42.5% in those four games with Embiid not playing while allowing their opponents to make 49.0% of their shots.
In comparison, Philadelphia averages 116.7 PPG while making 50.7% of their shots in the 15 games Embiid played this season going into the weekend. That translates into +15.4 more PPG and a net 8.2% improvement in their shooting.
On defense, the Sixers have held their 15 opponents when Embiid played to 109.4 PPG on 43.2% shooting from the field. While Philadelphia allows 8.1 more PPG without Embiid this season, opponents are shooting 5.8% better from the field.
In regards to my potential Over play, the Sixers averaged 226.1 combined PPG in their 14 games with Embiid as opposed to them averaging 216.1 combined PPG in the four games they played without Embiid. So far, the loss of Embiid’s presence on defense has been overwhelmed by the loss of his offensive skills — although analyzing the possible slowing of the tempo without Embiid deserves consideration. I passed on the Over. Embiid took part in the shootaround and later played 27 minutes in Philly’s 118-94 victory that finished well below the 225 total. Fortunately, I avoided losing money on the Over bet I was considering. But the data regarding how Philly plays without Embiid could be valuable moving forward.
The 76ers gave Embiid the night off on Sunday to end the month in their game at Indiana. Philadelphia rallied from a 95-82 deficit entering the fourth quarter to defeat the Pacers, 119-110. Analyzing how and why the Sixers scored 37 points in the fourth quarter while limiting Indiana to only 15 points in the final 12 minutes will be interesting. Of initial note is that the 76ers made 45 of their 92 shots for a 48.9% shooting percentage which is well above the 42.5% clip they had shot without Embiid in their previous four games. Yet they also allowed the Pacers to nail 41 of their 84 shots for a 48.8% clip which remains almost identical to the opponent’s field goal percentage of 49.0% they had without Embiid in their previous four games.
Perhaps the decline in the Sixers’ defense will continue in the games Embiid does not play this season? That would make sense. Was Philly’s offensive effort against Indiana (without Embiid) an aberration? Or was their big fourth-quarter shooting effort the result of the Regression Gods finally making an appearance for this team that simply been underachieving how they should be playing on offense even without Embiid? This will be interesting to continue to track.
Best of luck for us — Frank.