ESPN’s Zach Lowe is one of that network’s best NBA commentators. He sees things other NBA personalities do not see, and even has an Oklahoma “Dort” license plate on his bookshelf. Because who, after all, if not a Luguentz Dort fan?
Well, Lowe was on the NBA Today show Tuesday,singing the praises of two Eastern Conference teams: The New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers. And while neither team improved in the buyout market this week, they both have terrific coaches and better squads than many might think.
New York won five of six heading into the All-Star break and has climbed to sixth place in the East, and their next task is moving up to the No. 5 spot, which will require them to surpass the decimated Brooklyn Nets, who are not going to get 40 points from Cam Thomas and/or Mikal Bridges every night. That ship has sailed, so to speak, and the biggest question for them over the remainder of the season and the off-season is whether they can establish some value for Ben Simmons in order to off-load him over the summer.
As the expression goes: Stick a fork in them; They are done. But not so for their rivals who play at Madison Square Garden. They have been surging, and expect Jalen Brunson to erupt after his all-star snub. Also, Jason Hart was a sneaky good trade deadline pickup:
That 1973 Knicks team was SPECIAL
Celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the 1973 Knicks pic.twitter.com/aXsh6Ohmpm
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 21, 2023
So between the Sixers and Knicks; Who is the Best Bet?
Well, Philadelphia starts the workweek with 25 games remaining and a three-game deficit in the Atlantic Division. They are 26-7 following a 12-12 start, and they have two games remaining against the Boston Celtics, Saturday on ABC and April 4 on TNT. They are 0-2 against Boston, and will need to win both in order to compete for the division title. But as Lowe said: They have every business being in the championship conversation because of their star power with Joel Embiid and James Harden. It remains to be seen how much they use Jalen McDaniels in their lineup after trading away defensive specialist Matisse Thybulle.
But they are damn good, and this seems like a good time to remind you that on Jan. 25 of 2022, the Boston Celtics were a 25-25 team. That did not matter much when the finals arrived, eh?
The point here is that February NBA basketball resembles very little when it comes to May and June NBA basketball, and the Sixers are built to succeed. Still, they have the toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. They have two games remaining against the Bucks, along with road games at Golden State, Phoenix, and Denver. Yet they still offer enticing odds if you believe they can catch Boston.
Here are the Sixers’ odds of winning the Atlantic Division at the New York sportsbooks offering that market:
- DraftKings: +850.
- FanDuel: +1100:
- BetMGM: Unavailable:
- PointsBet: +1000.
- BetRivers: +750.
- WynnBet: Unavailable.
- ResortsWorld: +1000.
- Caesar’s: +700.
- BallyBet: Unavailable.
That is quite a range of prices, and although the Celtics have been a powerhouse with a twosome of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown that is every bit as talented (although in a different way) from Embiid and Harden, the Sixers are not to be easily dismissed.
The Celtics have the 10th-toughest schedule, with two matchups against the Cavs and Knicks standing out. Joe Mazzulla is still favored for Coach of the Year. But that remains a wide-open race that Mike Brown of Sacramento can capture if the Kings retain the top three spot in the West.
Brown has dropped from +8000 to +350 at BetMGM, spokesman David Eyler said, yet only 2.2% of wagers and 2.2% of bets have come in on the Kings coach. Mazzulla, at +175, has 32% of the tickets and handle.
“[Teams] are gunning for us because they want what we have.”
Coach Brown on the level of competition he expects to face over the final 25 games of the season pic.twitter.com/7ldokic9Fx
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) February 22, 2023
What About Winning the East?
Well, everyone thinks it is a two-horse race between Boston and Milwaukee, because they are sitting atop the Eastern Conference. But Giannis Antetokounpo injured his wrist in the All-Star game. Bobby Portis was expected back two weeks ago, but remains sidelined by a sprained right knee, and Jaylen Brown of the Celtics is playing with a face mask after an orbital fracture. Boston has won seven of nine and Milwaukee has won 12 in a row, so we will not being throwing shade at either of them.
But again: It is February, not April. In February of 2022, the Golden State Warriors began a stretch of losing nine of 11 games. That didn’t matter much in June.
One sneaky good team to keep an eye on is the Miami Heat, who just picked up Cleveland Cavaliers castoff Kevin Love. They were the No. 1 seed in the East a year ago, and in the NBA Finals three years ago, despite entering the postseason as a No. 5 seed. Gabe Vincent has been starting for injured Kyle Lowry at point guard, but is that sustainable? Might they kick the tires on John Wall, who is awaiting a buyout from Houston? Or Goran Dragic of the Bulls? Might they dip into the player pool of Americans competing in China or Europe?
All worth considering, because Erik Spoelstra has shown he can work miracles in the past.
Here are the Heat’s odds of winning the East. (Notable: They are 2-1 against Milwaukee, have three games left against the Sixers and Knicks, and two against the Cavs. They are 2-2 against Boston).
- DraftKings: +2000.
- FanDuel: +2500.
- BetMGM: +1800.
- PointsBet: +2000.
- Caesars: +2200.
- BetRivers: +1300.
- WynnBet: +2500
- ResortsWorld: +2000.
- BallyBet: Unavailable
If they beat the Bucks on Friday and the Sixers next Monday and Wednesday, those numbers on the Heat will sink. Just a little something to think about while realizing that the NBA season is a long way from over, and one week ago, nobody knew who Mac McClung was.
All of Mac McClung’s dunks from last nights dunk contest pic.twitter.com/RYFmoXpuEP
— LA Sports Radio (@LASportsRadio) February 19, 2023
Let’s hope he pulls this one out next year:
By now you’ve seen all the dunks from Mac McClung from last night. Here’s one from practice. I’ve never seen a no look dunk before
— CGC Sports Illustrated (@CGC_SI) February 19, 2023
Tomorrow, we take a similar look at the West, where the wagering opportunities are three times as interesting as the East.
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