After last week's TNT doubleheader featured some of the league's young stars, tonight's double dip has some old dogs trying to recapture some of that championship swagger. In the opener, a nearly healthy Brooklyn squad visits a banged up 76ers team in Philadelphia. For most of the year, the Nets have been dealing with injuries and player absences which have largely contributed to their underwhelming 8-9 record. Steve Nash was fired in favor of Jacque Vaughn, Kyrie Irving was suspended and missed eight games, and Ben Simmons has been missing, well, on and off the floor. However, the Nets have won 7 of their last 11 games and surprisingly have been one of the best defensive teams over the last two weeks.
For the 76ers, mounting injuries have plagued their early regular season. Like Brooklyn, they’ve weathered absences from James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, and now Joel Embiid with a suffocating defense. The concern now and heading into tonight’s game is how Doc Rivers will generate offense without three of their most important offensive hubs. De’Anthony Melton and Shake Milton combined for 48 points in the back court in a loss to the Timberwolves on Saturday night and Tobias Harris is set to return from a hip injury, but that may not be enough against a Nets team finding its stride.
Out west, the Lakers have won three straight without LeBron James and he’ll miss his fifth game with a left abductor strain. He’s obviously been missed, but a resurgence by Anthony Davis has buoyed the team (for now); during the win streak, AD is averaging 35 points and 17 rebounds and been the anchor of the 9th best defensive team in the league. Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV continue to be revelations for LA and Russell Westbrook is a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year off the Lakers’ bench.
Finally — and tell me if you’ve heard this before — the 64-win Phoenix Suns from a year ago are still championship contenders even while they battle a slew of injuries, too. Chris Paul (right heel soreness) and Landry Shamet (concussion protocol) are unlikely to suit up against the visiting Lakers and the Suns have lost Cam Johnson for a few weeks with a torn right meniscus. With rumors swirling about a possible trade with disgruntled Jae Crowder, the Suns have quietly been a top-3 offense in the desert and the most efficient team in the NBA (7.0 net rating) despite their 10-6 record.
With injuries abound, Philly is a 7.5-point underdog hosting the Nets and the Lakers are getting 10 points visiting the Suns. The lights and the national television cameras can often make for an unpredictable outcome and if you’re intrigued in making your night a little more interesting, check out some of the prop bets on the biggest drama of the night: the return of Ben Simmons to Wells Fargo Center.
Before getting shipped to Brooklyn, Simmons was a triple-double threat in a PHILA jersey. In his final season in the City of Brotherly Love, he was averaging nearly 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists a game. Tonight, our friends over at DraftKings have set the following over unders for the former #1 pick:
10.5 points (over -115, under -115)
7.5 rebounds (over +100, under -130)
5.5 assists (over -130, under +100)
And if you’re betting on the total of points, rebounds, and assists, it’s 24.5 (over -105, under -125). He’ll certainly get an icy reception in his return. How he responds is anyone’s guess.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.