The NBA regular season tips off on Tuesday night with a doubleheader of games, featuring four sides who are hoping to contend for the title this season.
The Philadelphia 76ers head to the Boston Celtics in the opening game, while the Golden State Warriors will pick up their championship rings before their clash with the LA Lakers.
After an offseason full of off-court drama, there's a real edge to both of the games from Tuesday night's doubleheader.
|What:||Philadelphia 76ers @ Boston Celtics|
|Where:||TD Garden, Boston|
|When:||19:30, Tuesday, October 18th|
|How to watch:||NBC|
|Odds:||PHI 76ers +115, BOS Celtic -135|
There isn't much between these two sides, with home advantage swinging it towards the Celtics in the betting. The defending Eastern Conference champions are -110 to win with a -2.5 handicap and they'll face a stern test from the Sixers in their opener.
At one point this summer the Celtics had been installed as championship favourites, with their trade for Malcolm Brogdon seeming to fix their biggest issues. That was before their head coach Ime Udoka was suspended by the team for the season, leaving assistant coach Joe Mazzulla to make his debut in the top job on Tuesday.
As for the Sixers, they went out in the Eastern Conference semi-finals last term, but their season was rocked by Ben Simmons' refusal to play. They were able to trade him for James Harden at the trade deadline earlier this year, but the fit wasn't ideal given the limited time Harden had to gel with the team.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers was recorded telling Harden during preseason that his role is to facilitate Embiid, as the Sixers pin their title hopes on last season's scoring champion. Harden has also proved to be an off-court facilitator, taking a summer pay cut so that the Sixers could recruit PJ Tucker in free agency.
The Sixers are hoping that a supporting cast of Harden, Tucker and Tyreese Maxey can finally bring some play-off success to Philly. Meanwhile, the Celtics are hoping that continuity will carry over in spite of their coaching change.
The Celtics were won 34 of 46 regular season games from January onwards this year. That formidable record pushed them towards the top of the East and laid the foundations for play-off success, but they aren't the same side coming into Tuesday's clash.
Not only are the Celtics missing their coach, but they've also lost Robert Williams III for this encounter. He was their most likely match-up for Embiid, so the Celtics might struggle to contain a hungry Sixers side in their opener.
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|What:||LA Lakers @ Golden State Warriors|
|Where:||Chase Centre, San Francisco|
|When:||22:00 ET, Tuesday 18th October|
|How to watch:||TNT|
|Odds:||LA Lakers +210, GS Warriors -250|
The Golden State Warriors were installed as favourites after the issues in Boston, but they have their own problems to deal with. Four-time NBA champion Draymond Green had to take time away from the team after footage leaked of an altercation between him and teammate Jordan Poole.
The Warriors are expected to regroup after that, but Draymond doesn't seem entirely happy. The team's standout defender has been pushing his case for a big, final contract extension. However, the Warriors have chosen to hand out new deals to Poole and Andrew Wiggins, leaving Draymond's future with the team unclear.
As for the Lakers, they've had a big off-season overall. They let last season's supporting cast of veterans go, choosing to add younger players to support their older stars. They still have Russell Westbrook on the roster, with the all-time triple-double leader remaining an awkward fit in LA.
The additions of Patrick Beverley, Lonnie Walker and former Warrior Juan Toscano-Anderson should help the Lakers. However, this is a side which finished last term with a 33-49 record in 11th place in the West.
The Lakers have championship-calibre stars in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. However, their supporting cast isn't strong enough to keep pace with the best in the league. They head into this match as +210 outsiders on the money line against the Warriors, with the champions available at -110 with a 6.5 handicap.
The defending champions tend to have plenty to celebrate on opening night. Across NBA history, defending champions have a 59-16 record in season openers.
This is the Warriors' first ring ceremony at the Chase Center, having been in outstanding form at home last season. Across both the regular season and the play-offs, the Warriors won 42 of 53 games at their own arena.Safer Gambling Week (17-23 October) – Let’s talk about safer gambling. Click here for more information on independent resources. Gamble Responsibly.