After a few long months without meaningful basketball, a new season has finally arrived. As always the league has put together a loaded set of games for opening night. This season, we’ll tip off with the Philadelphia 76ers vs. Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors. Title favorites, rivalries, MVPs, young and ascending stars … this slate has everything a fan could want.
(For a full schedule, including all the information you need on how to watch both games in Tuesday’s doubleheader,.)
While the best thing about the return of the regular season is that we actually get to watch serious basketball again, an added bonus is we get to bet about serious basketball again. Sure, you can bet on preseason games if you want — and even summer league for that matter — but come on.
Ahead of opening night, here’s a look at the odds for each game, as well as some best bets. (Lines courtesy of Vegas Insider)
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics, 8 p.m. ET — TNT
Following their run to the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Celtics got Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving back from season-ending injuries, and are favorites to win the conference. That, combined with the fact that they’re at home has allowed them to be inserted as five-point favorites over the Sixers on opening night.
Now, the Sixers are certainly no slouch, and are widely seen as the third-best team in the conference behind the Celtics and Raptors. Still, it’s fair to say that they’re just a tier below those two teams, so five points feels like a fair number for the Celtics to be getting — especially considering a lesser Celtics team beat the Sixers in five games in their second-round playoff series just a few months ago.
The Celtics looked a bit shaky in the preseason, but that was due in large part to reintroducing the likes of Irving and Hayward, as well as the fact that they crammed all of their games in early. They’ve had over a week now to practice and prepare, not to mention rest. Those extra practices should help alleviate some of the issues.
Meanwhile, the Sixers spent much of their preseason over in China as part of the Global Games series. They simply won’t have had the same level of preparation time. Plus they’ll probably still be dealing with the effects of that level of long-distance travel.
Including the playoff series, the Celtics were 7-2 against the Sixers last season, winning four of those games by double digits. Considering their newfound health, home-court advantage and proven ability to contain both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, we’re going with the Celtics in this one.
Pick: Celtics -5
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OKC Thunder at Golden State Warriors, 10:30 p.m. — TNT
This will be yet another ring night for the Warriors, who last season claimed their second straight title, and third in four seasons. As they embark on their three-peat attempt, they’ll open up at home against the Thunder. And they’ll do so as 12.5-point favorites.
At first glance, this may seem like a pretty big number against a solid Thunder team. However, this line takes into account that not only will the Thunder be without defensive stalwart Andre Roberson, but Russell Westbrook may not be cleared either. Those injuries, the Warriors’ stacked lineup and the fact that the game is in Oracle Arena are why the Warriors are such heavy favorites.
Considering those factors, it may seem like a no-brainer to take the Warriors, but there are legitimate reasons for pause. For one, they’ve lost on opening night at home in each of the past two seasons, and the Warriors were one of the worst teams in the league against the spread last season, covering just 44 percent of the time. Plus, given the long playoff runs they’ve gone on over the past few seasons, it’s always hard to know how seriously they’ll take games on a night-to-night basis in the regular season.
If I had to make a pick, I’d probably lean Warriors -12.5 right now, simply due to the talent disparity between the two teams and the Warriors’ home-court advantage. However, the Warriors with big lines like this are probably a stay away for me until we see how they’re approaching the regular season. Plus, on this game specifically, you run the risk of taking the Warriors at a big number early and having Westbrook cleared, which would likely lower the line at least a few points.
Pick: Warriors -12.5