The Boston Celtics saved their 2023 NBA Playoffs lives by taking a crucial Game 6 matchup over the Philadelphia 76ers by a score of 95-86. It was a sluggish performance from both sides the entire way, highlighted by rough shooting stats from either sidelines. For the Sixers, this was highlighted by James Harden, and arguably his worst game of the series. Harden went 4/16 from the field, including 0/6 from beyond the arc, on his way to 13 points. It was another case of inconsistency from Harden, who has balled out in Sixers wins and looked lost in their losses. However, not all the blame can be put on him, as it was another non MVP performance from Joel Embiid. Embiid had 26 points, but on an average 9/19 from the field; once again, the dominance he showed in the regular season eluded him. Nonetheless, the Game 6 showings from Harden and Embiid indicate why the Sixers are huge underdogs in Game 7.
As of Friday, the Sixers are +225 to win Game 7 and subsequently the series. This comes as no surprise, as being unable to close out the series at home puts them in a precarious position for a decisive Game 7 in Boston. The Celtics are no juggernaut at home, but they definitely have the momentum on their side after staving off elimination on the road. In general, Boston was the favorite coming into the series and were the better team during the regular season. With such an up and down series on both sides, a home Game 7 for the Celtics predictably makes them favorites. If the Sixers want to make an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, they will have to overcome underdog odds.
Looking ahead to the Game 7 matchup, the Sixers being underdogs makes sense given their rough display in Game 6. There are three reasons in particular why the Sixers are +225 to get passed the Celtics, and without further adieu, here they are.
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*Lines via Fanduel
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Philadelphia 76ers’ lack of playoff history
The Philadelphia 76ers are not nearly the championship caliber organization that the Boston Celtics are. Over the course of the history of these two teams, the Celtics have 16 championships while the Sixers have two. With that in mind, the Sixers are playing without their home crowd at their back, and within an arena built on an atmosphere of playoff success. While the Celtics players will be suiting up for a Game 7 with a playoff majesty on their side, the Sixers just don’t have the same aura fueling their bid for a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Regardless of the impact of past titles, the Sixers don’t have the same amount of pride in wearing their jersey versus the Celtics in their own. A Game 7 at TD Garden will simply just mean more to Celtics players, especially so after almost losing that opportunity before surviving a Game 6 on the road. The Sixers could play their best game of the series on Sunday, but the Celtics legacy will give them the ability to respond to any punch thrown. At the end of the day, the Sixers are not just a worse team, but a less legendary organization, which is a big reason why they are +225 underdogs.
James Harden struggles against the Boston Celtics
The Sixers can give thanks to James Harden for at least two of their wins in this series. However, his aforementioned struggles In Game 6 is a big reason they lost and are now facing an elimination Game 7. The Sixers being underdogs at +225 can be attributed to this performance, as obviously Vegas expects more of the same in Game 7. It would not be a surprise to see Harden have a rough showing, as the atmosphere and magnitude of a Game 7 at TD Garden is going to prove too grand for the former MVP.
Despite the struggles, Harden deserves his credit for being why the Sixers have a chance in this one in the first place. His two 40 point performances in the series led to Sixers wins, victories that would not have come if he didn’t show out. However, expect the Celtics to play their most suffocating defense of the series, a formula that flustered Harden in Game 6 and will continue in Game 7. The Sixers are big underdogs for this reason, and will most likely fall short of the Eastern Conference Finals. As James Harden struggles shooting the ball from all over the floor, he will show why the Sixers are +225 to advance.
Jayson Tatum’s moment
Everyone had a slow start to Game 6, including Celtics star Jayson Tatum. Tatum finished the game with just 19 points, and he did so on 5/21 shooting. However, he poured in 16 points in the fourth quarter and was the primary reason the Celtics were able to force a game 7. Tatum once again proved he was built for playoff moments, and he will do more of the same in Game 7. It has been well documented how determined Tatum is to return to the NBA Finals after losing last year to the Golden State Warriors. This is why the Celtics will win Game 7, as returning to the Eastern Conference Finals is just too important to Tatum to let the Sixers stand in the way.
It is unfortunate for Sixers fans that Philadelphia wasn’t able to close it out in Game 6; that really was their opportunity to be one series away from the NBA Finals. The Sixers being underdogs now just makes sense, as Game 7 is a time for Jayson Tatum to put the whole city of Boston on his back. Whatever the Sixers do, it won’t be enough against Tatum. It will end in another solid season for the Sixers, although not good enough.
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