How much money is it going to take for you, a diehard 76ers fan who has been waiting 20 years for them to seriously contend for the championship again, to uncurl from the fetal position if they suffer a second-round playoff exit?
And how much money would you be willing to pay to see your beloved Sixers advance to the Eastern Conference finals?
These are the questions to consider if you’re pondering what some might see as the ultimate betrayal: betting on the Atlanta Hawks before the Sixers’ second-round series against them begins on Sunday.
This is known as an emotional hedge bet. You bet against the outcome you’re rooting for so that you’ll have something to show for it if the season goes south.
It’s something few serious Sixers fans would have considered if not for the latest ill-fated landing by coulda-been-MVP center Joel Embiid. But, alas, he went up, he came down awkwardly, and his health status for the remainder of the playoffs is uncertain. And as a result, the top-seeded 76ers losing their best-of-seven series against the fifth-seeded Hawks is, unfortunately, a realistic possibility.
No official word from the Sixers yet on Joel Embiid’s injury, but here’s the fall he took not long before leaving for the locker room.pic.twitter.com/s3NufD3LXs
— Chase Hughes (@ChaseHughesNBCS) June 1, 2021
Sixers still favored, but it’s too close for comfort
With the Sixers and Hawks having dispatched the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks, respectively, in five games apiece, they tip off their Eastern Conference semifinal series at 1 p.m. Sunday.
How big a favorite would the 76ers be if they were coming into the series with Embiid at 100%? That’s hard to say, but something in the neighborhood of -300 seems reasonable.
But with Embiid diagnosed with a small meniscus tear in his right knee, question marks abound. Officially, he’s “day to day.” He might play in Game 1, he might not. He might play with limited minutes and diminished mobility. He might worsen the injury and have to be shut down for the remainder of the postseason. He might get out there in a knee brace and look like his usual dominant self at both ends of the floor and play his usual complement of minutes and lead the Sixers to a four-game sweep.
That last one is extremely wishful thinking. You can trust the process all you want, but it’s Murphy’s Law that keeps proving most worthy of Sixers fans’ trust.
And the odds, at the Pennsylvania mobile sportsbooks that as of Friday morning had posted series lines, show the Sixers aren’t such prohibitive favorites if they don’t know what they’re getting out of Embiid:
Apologies for subjecting you to even a few seconds of Skip Bayless in this clip, but Shannon Sharpe speaks for a lot of observers when he says, “If [Embiid] is banged up in this series, Atlanta’s gonna beat them.”
"If (Joel Embiid) is banged up in this series, Atlanta's gonna beat them." – @ShannonSharpe, on the Sixerspic.twitter.com/cEBFcFrfHQ
— FOX Bet (@FOXBet) June 3, 2021
Maybe you, the eternal Philly sports pessimist, believe that. Maybe you don’t. Either way, a bet on the Hawks is a form of insurance.
What price point eases your pain?
Let’s take the most bettor-friendly odds on Atlanta, those offered by DraftKings Sportsbook (as well as other books with initial odds provided by Kambi, including BetRivers, PlaySugarHouse, Barstool Sportsbook, Unibet, Parx, and TwinSpires). A wager on the Hawks to win pays +160.
Obviously, each gambler has their own price point in terms of how much money it takes for a bet to really matter to them. So adjust these numbers to suit your needs. But if you bet $200 on the Hawks, you’ll win $320 if they eliminate the Sixers.
Ask yourself this: If the Sixers, for the fourth straight season, are going to lose within the first two playoff rounds, would 320 extra dollars in your bank account ease that pain noticeably? And if you could pay $200 right now for a promise that the Sixers advance to the conference finals and a tantalizing showdown with either the Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks, would you do it?
At +160 odds, there should be a roughly break-even price point for any Sixers fan — a set of numbers where the dollar value and the desire to see your team win approximately intersect.
Then there’s this element: If enough of us bet on the Hawks, maybe the lines will move and the 76ers will barely be favored by the time the series starts. And that, my friends, is called bulletin board material.
The Sixers, despite holding the top seed and the accompanying home court advantage, can become a “nobody believes in us” team and rally behind that.
And if it doesn’t work, and Embiid’s knee doesn’t cooperate enough, well … hopefully you’ve bet enough to cover a fair amount of what you need to drown your sorrows.
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