Before opening night arrives for the New Orleans Pelicans, the 2022-23 NBA regular season will kick off with a couple of highly anticipated contests Tuesday on TNT.
The Boston Celtics will host the Philadelphia 76ers in game one. The Los Angeles Lakers at the Golden State Warriors will follow in the nightcap.
The oddsmakers over at DraftKings list the Celtics as slight favorites over the 76ers, favoring Boston by 2.5 points. Despite being at home, this line doesn’t feel safe to me.
While the 76ers are entering the season with good energy emanating from James Harden and a strengthened roster around he and Joel Embiid, the Celtics recently went through the turmoil of the Ime Udoka scandal. In addition, they’ll be without Robert Williams, their difference-making starting center.
Newly-formed teams carrying tough-minded veterans inside the locker room like to make statements. This opener is a golden opportunity for P.J. Tucker and the 76ers to let the whole national audience know that the Eastern Conference will run through Philadelphia this season. It’s hard to bet against that from happening.
In the second game, the Lakers need to beat the Warriors, a much better team on paper, at their place. Then there’s the fact that they’re going up against history.
NBA champions have compiled a 59-16 (.784) record in following regular-season openers. On top of that, the Lakers were the last league champ to fall, losing 116-109 to the L.A. Clippers to begin the 2020-21 campaign.
DraftKings is listing the Lakers as 6.0-point underdogs, which sounds about right, but I think the final margin finishes larger.
Although all eyes should be on Draymond Green, Jordan Poole will receive a lot of glances. If Golden State isn’t a truly fractured team stemming from the practice punch thrown — which I don’t believe they are — the Warriors will do their best to demonstrate it by trying to dismantle the Lakers.
LeBron James certainly wants to set the right tone for this season, and Anthony Davis should have a burning desire to show everyone he’s the player that he was a few years ago, but we should have little faith in the rest of L.A.’s roster.
Preseason is preseason, but the Lakers went 1-5 in exhibition play, getting bludgeoned twice by the Sacramento Kings.
Then there’s the whole Russell Westbrook circus. No one should believe that the former MVP is 100% good with coming off bench. That’s simply not found in the DNA of alphas. And hey, circuses are meant to travel.
Once Darvin Ham sees the inevitable, L.A.’s two stars will be off the floor, at which time the Warriors should extend their lead.
Yeah, the smart money says take the points and bet on Golden State.
Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.
For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.