The NBA is back and what a way to start Eastern Conference action than having two of the favorites in the East go head to head on opening night.
The Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are two of the most storied teams in the East. There teams have a rivalry that dates back to the time of Larry Bird and Julius Erving. Last season, these two renewed their rivalry as they faced each other in the 2nd round of the 2018 NBA Playoffs. The Celtics beat the Sixers 4-1 in that series, behind an all-around effort plus smart and better coaching by Boston head coach Brad Stevens.
Before the start of the 2017-18 NBA season, Sixers big man Joel Embiid warned the league about the arrival of the FEDS, a term he coined for the Sixers’ core of Fultz, Embiid, Dario (Saric) and Simmons. One season later, the FEDS are back and wiser by a season.
No question, the Sixers have one of the most talented guard-big man duo in the league in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. These two studs have all the potential in the world and barring any injuries, both are expected to have an even better season this year which should make the Sixers more dangerous than ever.
But what should take Philly over the top will be the production of their bench which will likely be bannered by last season’s #1 overall pick Markelle Fultz. Fultz had a so-so rookie season because of injuries and a distorted jump shot during the offseason, he’s looked better. With Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova gone, the Sixers hope Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and rookie Zhaire Smith can fill the void. However, Chandler, Muscala, Smith and reserve guard Jerryd Bayless are expected to miss opening night with injuries.
The Boston Celtics were one game away from the NBA Finals last season even if they played the entire postseason without their two All-Stars in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Hayward broke his leg on opening night while Irving had midseason knee surgery but the Celtics went deep in the playoffs and nearly upset LeBron’s Cavs.
Boston’s overachieving playoff run saw the emergence of rookie Jayson Tatum, sophomore Jaylen Brown, backup guard Terry Rozier and the resurfacing of Al Horford. From top to bottom, Celtics’ head coach Brad Stevens was able to get valuable minutes from his players. And with Hayward and Irving back, the Celtics at full strength are the favorites to win the LeBron-less Eastern Conference.
Hayward has looked rusty during the preseason play but Irving has looked like the same old basketball wizard in limited minutes. With Tatum, Brown and Rozier expected to pick up where they left off, these Celtics are going to be one helluva team to play with their ability to knock down the three point shot and given their amazing depth. You may compete with their starting unit but it’s going to be hard to keep up the rest of the way.
The Sixers are 20-5 SU in their last 25 games but only 1-4 SU in their last five games. They are also 9-3 SU in their last 12 games on the road but are only 1-10 in their last 11 games on the road against the Celtics. Overall, the Sixers are 3-18 in their last 21 games against the Celtics. Boston has won seven out of the last 9 games between these eastern conference rivals
Aside from “owning” the Sixers in their head to head match-up, the Green men have won 11 out of their last 12 games SU on the road. Last season, the Celtics were 27-14 SU at the TD Garden, the third best home record in the Eastern Conference. They were also 12-4 against the Atlantic Conference including 3-1 SU versus the 76ers.
You can expect a full house TD Garden welcoming back Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to action. These fans have waited one year to see Hayward back and are surely excited to see Kyrie back after announcing his intention to re-sign with the Celtics next summer. Top to bottom, the Celtics have one of the deepest line-ups in the league, perhaps even deeper than the Golden State Warriors.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have looked fantastic in preseason play. But the Sixers will miss two of last season’s playoff catalysts in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. They’ve added Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala but both will be out of action with injuries. Given their depth, the fact they are playing at home and welcoming their two all-stars back. Emotions should run high in Boston. We’re picking the Boston Celtics to beat the Philadelphia 76ers on 10/16/18.
The Sixers are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games played on a Tuesday while the Celtics are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 Tuesday games. Boston is also a solid 19-7 ATS in their last 26 home games.
The Sixers are 16-8 ATS in their last 24 games but are only 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games and 2-4 ATS in their last 6 games away from home. On the other hand, the Celtics are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games but are a strong 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games played at the TD Garden. Against the Sixers, Boston is also 4-1 ATS in their last five games overall and 4-1 ATS in their last five home games against Philadelphia.
We’re expecting big nights from the stars of both teams but if you look at their depth, the Sixers lost two of their key reserves in Belinelli and Ilyasova. They are also without Chandler, Muscala, Bayless and Zhaire Smith in this contest. Meanwhile, the Celtics aren’t just loaded but are also healthy (fingers crossed). There are too many weapons out there for Boston and 5 should be an easy cover. Prediction: Celtics -5
The total has gone over in 6 out of the last 7 games of Philadelphia and also under in 5 out of the last 7 games played by Boston. But the over is 15-7 in Boston’s last 22 home games and 9-3 in the last 12 games between the 76ers and the Celtics at the TD Garden.
This is the opening game of the season and I don’t expect teams to play playoff defense yet. The Sixers may have lost a handful of points with the departure of Belinelli and Ilyasova but during preseason, they scored at least 112 points in three of their four games played. On the other hand, there’s no questioning the Celtics’ ability to score. They went 1-3 in preseason play but we know Boston was just trying to get their stars back in the groove. This is when the real season starts and we know the Celtics are locked and loaded. Prediction: Over 209
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