- The Celtics are loaded with talent, but the unit's lack of experience playing together gives the 76ers on edge when NBA action tips off on Tuesday night.
The 2018-19 NBA season finally tips off tonight, with big-time matchups to celebrate the occasion: Philadelphia at Boston and Oklahoma City at Golden State. Here are our three top betting plays for opening night.
1. Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (-5.0)
8:00 pm ET
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Celtics are the right play on opening night. Boston has the better coach, a more talented roster and one of the league’s best home-court advantages. The problem is that the Celtics have some kinks to work out. With both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward coming back, Boston is a different team than what we saw beat Philadelphia in five games in last year’s playoffs. Irving and Hayward figure to be two of the players that will lead Brad Stevens’s team in usage rate this season, which will be a change from the offense that was dominated by Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and key reserve Terry Rozier throughout the second half of last season. Meanwhile, the Sixers allowed just 103.8 points per 100 possessions during the regular season last year, making them the third most efficient defense in the entire league. That’s only going to make things harder on Boston. And Philadelphia also brings back the same core of stars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, in addition to excellent role players like Robert Covington, JJ Redick and Dario Saric. Continuity is on the Sixers’ side, and anything that 2017 No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz does is an added bonus.
Pick: Philadelphia 76ers (+5.0)
2. Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (Total 210.5)
8:00 pm ET
As previously mentioned, the 76ers had the third-best defensive rating in the NBA last season. Do you know who was second? The Celtics. Boston was remarkable on that end of the floor last season, even when Irving—who has a bad reputation defensively—was still in the lineup. So both of these teams are capable of locking their opponents up on any given night, but you also have to take into account that this is opening night. The lengthy preseason definitely helps a little, but these teams are still going to be rusty for this one. And there are also plenty of nerves that come with being the first game of the year. Look for both teams to start slow, and for both teams to score in the high 90s or low 100s. This game should be played with playoff-level intensity.
Pick: Under (210.5)
3. Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors (-13.0)
10:30 pm ET
A lingering injury for Russell Westbrook is less than ideal for an Oklahoma City team that faces the ultimate opening-night test: a road game against Golden State. The Warriors should come out with a lot of energy as they begin their quest for a three-peat. Big free-agent acquisition DeMarcus Cousins will not be ready for the foreseeable future, but on the court will be the same Warriors team that fans have come to despise over the years. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala all at their healthiest, Golden State should be able to turn in an impressive performance here. And with the Thunder playing without Andre Roberson—their best defender—it’s hard to imagine the team being able to prevent the Warriors from scoring the basketball at will. If Golden State can contain Paul George on the other end of the floor, there's no reason it can't win this game by 20-plus.
Pick: Golden State Warriors (-13.0)