Game two of this exciting Eastern Conference series is here, and the Boston Celtics will look to even the series before heading to Philadelphia for game three. If game one was any indicator, this series will be highly entertaining, and we’ll preview tonight's game before going over my best prop play for the action.
I’d be remiss not to start this with the game's biggest story, as freshly anointed MVP Joel Embiid will be back on the floor tonight after missing two straight games. The big man will be inserted back into a 76ers lineup that scored 119 points on 51% shooting from the field in game one. Philadelphia was led by James Harden, who had the best playoff performance of his career with 45 points and six assists.
When Embiid has been on the floor this postseason, the 76ers NET rating goes to 16.4, and their true shooting percentage increases by 3.7%. Philadelphia showed they have the talent to compete without Embiid on the floor, and backup center Paul Reed stepped up nicely in his absence with a double-double. Still, the return of the MVP, especially on the defensive end, is massive.
That last statement may seem obvious, but the numbers amplify how much he alters this series in terms of game-planning. Across the entire postseason, 57.8% of the Celtics' field goal attempts have been two-point attempts, which is 13th among 16 playoff teams, and 42.2% of their attempts have been from three, which is fourth. However, in game one without Embiid defending the paint, 65.3% of Boston’s field goal attempts were two-pointers, and 57.4% of their point came from inside the paint, while only 26.1% came from three.
The game plan for Boston could shift back to how it’s been for most of the playoffs tonight, meaning more attempts from beyond the arc. During the regular season, opposing team's three-point attempt average went from 24.2 when Embiid was on the floor to 13.9 when he wasn’t on the floor. We could be seeing an entirely different style of game being played by both sides tonight than we saw in game one.
For my prop play in this one, I’ll be targeting Tobias Harris to go over his point total of 14.5, currently priced at (-127). Harris has gone over this number in all five playoff games he has played up to this point, and he is shooting 55.3% from the field and 52.6% from three in those games.
Harris is taking 23.4% of the team's field goal attempts, and even with Embiid returning tonight, I still think Harris will get his shots. When on the floor with Embiid this season, Harris shot 49.9% from the field while averaging 10.6 field goal attempts per game, which with the big man garnering more attention tonight, I think Harris will get even more open looks than he did in game one when he had 15 points.
In five career playoff games against the Boston Celtics, Harris is averaging 16.2 points per game against them. The Sixers forward has been excellent this postseason and is reaping the benefits of playing besides Joel Embiid and James Harden, who could be looking to dish it out even more, tonight, depending on how Boston defends them.
Tobias Harris Over 14.5 Points (-127)