With all due respect to the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard or anyone else, the most dominant player so far in the 2021 NBA playoffs has been Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Joel Embiid. However, the injury-prone Embiid is injured again and doubtful for a potential clinching Game 5 at home Wednesday vs. the Washington Wizards, who won't have Davis Bertans. Philly opened at -7 on the William Hill Sportsbook NBA odds but that spread is dropping a bit.
It appears the Sixers have avoided disaster regarding an MRI on Embiid's right knee after he went down hard and rather awkwardly Sunday when he was met in the air at the rim by Wizards center Robin Lopez just over seven minutes into Game 4. Embiid finished the first quarter but didn't return. The Sixers led by three after one but were outscored by 15 over the next two quarters and lost 122-114 in D.C. as the Wizards avoided a sweep.
Embiid entered Game 4 having scored 88 points in 84 minutes vs. the Wizards with an absurd shooting percentage of 67.4. Now including Sunday's loss, Philadelphia is plus-70 when Embiid is on the floor and minus-17 when not in this series. It's likely that Dwight Howard takes his starting spot unless Coach Doc Rivers wants to go small.
Philadelphia is not winning the East without a healthy Embiid – perhaps not even beating Atlanta (the likely opponent) in Round 2. William Hill has dropped the Sixers to +400 to win the conference, behind Brooklyn (-130) and Milwaukee (+240) even though the Nets play each other in Round 2.
Tobias Harris (24.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg in series) and Ben Simmons (13. 8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 8.8 apg) surely will be counted on more in Game 5. Will the Wizards continue to intentionally foul Simmons at key moments? They did in Game 4, and he's just 5-for-20 from the line in this series. The Sixers are listing George Hill (left knee contusion) and Seth Curry (left ankle sprain) as probable, but there's no way they will sit.
As for Washington, it has lost forward Davis Bertans for 4-6 weeks to a calf strain. He scored a postseason career-high 15 points in the first half of Game 4 before straining his right calf in the third quarter. Bertans had done little in the series prior to that, but he is usually one of the league's better three-point shooters. As a team, the Wizards are averaging just 6.8 three-pointers per game on 25.3 percent from beyond the arc in this series.
Russell Westbrook has put up back-to-back triple-doubles in the series, while Bradley Beal is averaging 29.5 points. Westbrook is -170 at William Hill for another triple-double (no +140) – his 12 career playoff triple-doubles are third all-time -- while Beal has an Over/Under of 31.5 points.
The Wizards have lost 11 straight games in Philadelphia including playoffs and covered the spread in only four. This writer, though, took the 7 points.
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