The Philadelphia 76ers will open the 2018-19 season against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, Oct. 16 (TNT, 8 p.m.) on the road in a rematch of last spring’s NBA Eastern Conference semifinals. In that playoff series, the Celtics eliminated the Sixers five games.
The Sixers will be facing a team capable of winning the NBA championship. The Celtics are loaded with talent. A year ago, Boston lost to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals.
Of course, James is now with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the Celtics have point guard Kyrie Irving and small forward Gordon Hayward back from their injuries. In addition to Irving and Hayward, the Celtics have a good blend of youth and veterans with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Marcus Morris and Al Horford.
The Sixers will be tested right away. This will be an opportunity to see how far they have come since the playoffs ended.
Sixers’ All-Star center Joel Embiid is starting the season on a healthy note. Embiid has played extremely well in the preseason. He could be headed for a big year.
The 7-foot, 250-pounder, averaged 22.9 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He could be the most dominant player in the Eastern Conference.
Sixers guard Ben Simmons should be able to get the ball to Embiid around the basket. Simmons is one of the best passing guards in the NBA. Simmons was named the NBA Rookie of the Year last season. He averaged 15.8 points, 8.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds a game. If the 6-foot-10, 230-pounder, can knock down a few outside shots, he could have an even better season.
Second-year guard Markelle Fultz will join Simmons in the backcourt as a starter. Last season, Fultz missed 68 games with a right shoulder injury. He also saw limited action in the playoffs.
Fultz spent a lot of time working on his outside shooting last summer. The Sixers are hoping he could give them a lift offensively. He does have the ability to get to the basket. He can shoot off the dribble.
If Fultz is in the starting lineup, shooting guard JJ Redick will come off the bench. Redick is a great outside shooter. He averaged 17.1 points a game last season. He shot 42 percent from three-point range. He could give the Sixers some instant offense off the bench.
Robert Covington can shoot from distance. Covington shot 36.9 percent from beyond the arc. He averaged 12.6 points and 5.4 rebounds a game. Covington’s strength is his defense. The 6-foot-9, 225-pounder, was named to the NBA All-Defensive first team last season.
Dario Saric is one of the Sixers’ most consistent players. Saric does all the little things as well as score, rebound and defend. The 6-foot-10, 223-pound forward, averaged 14.6 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.
The Sixers should get some solid play from reserves center Amir Johnson and point guard T.J. McConnell. Johnson and McConnell know their roles quite well on this team. Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows how to utilize their skills.
A surprise player could be rookie guard Landry Shamet from Wichita State. Shamet, a 6-foot-5, 188-pounder, played very well during the preseason. He’s a great shooter from long range.
It will be interesting to see how the Sixers perform against the Celtics. After this contest, they will come home to play the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. (TNT) at the Wells Fargo Center.