After months of basketball in the regular season, the 2023 NBA Playoffs are finally here. Now, only the best of the best in the league remains in pursuit of the Larry O’Brien Trophy. With the Philadelphia 76ers set to face the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, it means it is time for some Sixers NBA Playoffs bold predictions.
Philadelphia finished the regular season with a 54-28 record, a three-win improvement from the previous season, and secured the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. This was also the team’s best regular-season campaign since its 56-win season in 2001 with Allen Iverson.
On the other side of the matchup, the Nets had one of the most interesting seasons across the league. They ended up trading away both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in February despite having one of the best records in the NBA. Still, Brooklyn managed to end 45-37 and secure the No. 6 seed and the final direct playoff spot.
In the regular season, the Sixers swept the Nets 4-0. However, since Brooklyn’s roster suffered major changes throughout the year, things could be very different this time around.
With that being said, here are some bold predictions for the Philadelphia 76ers as they kick off their 2023 NBA Playoffs first round versus the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday.
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3. Philadelphia has problems against Mikal Bridges
Perhaps the most impactful piece that came in Durant’s trade to the Phoenix Suns was Mikal Bridges. The small forward gained a larger role on offense and finished the season as the team’s leading scorer, excluding Irving and Durant.
In 27 games with the Nets, Bridges averaged 26.1 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists plus a steal a night. He shot 47.5% from the field, 37.6% from beyond the arc and 89.4% from the free-throw line. He put up better numbers in Brooklyn even though he played in fewer minutes than he did in Phoenix this season.
Bridges appeared in two out of the teams’ four encounters but played in just four seconds in the second one. In the game he fully played, he recorded 23 points, six boards, and two steals. He went 8-for-18 from the field with three made 3-pointers.
Without Matisse Thybulle on the roster anymore, the Sixers might have a tough time stopping Bridges in the perimeter. It would not be a surprise if the forward averages over 25 points for the series with efficient numbers from the field. Should that happen, the Nets could make this series closer than expected.
2. Joel Embiid and James Harden combine for 55-plus points in the series
As for the 76ers, there is no secret that their success will depend on how well Joel Embiid performs. The center is one of the frontrunners for the MVP trophy and should get extra attention in the postseason.
Embiid recorded a league-best 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists with 1.7 blocks and a steal per game. He made 54.8% of his field goals, 33% of his 3-pointers, and 85.7% of his free throws.
Other than Embiid, another player who could go off for the Sixers is James Harden. Despite dealing with injuries this season, the guard had solid numbers in his first full season with the franchise.
The 10-time All-Star had 21 points, 10.7 assists, and 6.1 rebounds plus 1.2 steals across 58 games. His shooting splits were 44.1% from the field, 38.5% from the 3-point line, and 86.7% from the charity stripe.
The bold prediction is that Embiid and Harden will go off as a duo and average combined 55-plus points for the series. If that is the case, the Sixers should have better chances of advancing in the postseason.
1. Sixers win the series in at most six games
At the end of the day, it is difficult to ignore Embiid’s MVP-worthy season. He is playing the best basketball of his career and has yet to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, so there is probably a lot at stake for his résumé this season.
Additionally, another thing that could play an important role in this series is experience. Embiid, Harden, Tobias Harris, and P.J. Tucker are veterans with plenty of postseason games under their belt. On the other hand, many of Brooklyn’s rotational players are youngsters in their first years as key players for a team. Even Bridges, who has an NBA Finals appearance, is having his breakout season now.
According to FanDuel, the Sixers are the favorites to win this series with odds of -800. For comparison, this is so far the second-largest odds among all playoff series that already have both teams determined.
The bold prediction is that Philadelphia’s experience will eventually prevail and will advance to the conference semifinals. Also, the series will likely be decided by at most six games.
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