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NBA Opening Night Preview (Celtics v 76ers & Warriors v Lakers)

NBA Opening Night Preview (Celtics v 76ers & Warriors v Lakers) 

The 76th Season of the NBA tips off tonight and two rivalries will be renewed to usher in what promises to be a drama-filled year.  

Last season’s runners-up, the Boston Celtics welcome the Philadelphia 76ers coached by Doc Rivers, the last coach to bring a championship to the city of Boston. Hours later, the reigning champions, the Golden State Warriors will be celebrating their Ring Night and, waiting on the sidelines hoping to ruin their party will be LeBron James – the man they’ve faced in 4 consecutive finals – and his Lakers teammates.  

This season, for the first time in a long while, every team will have something to fight for. For the good teams, it’s obvious they’ll be fighting for a chance to win the Championship but for the bad teams, they’ll be fighting for a chance to draft Victor Wembanyama, the 18-year-old 7’3 Frenchman widely regarded as the best prospect about to enter the NBA since LeBron James back in 2003.  

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers  

Last Season H2H 

Games Played: 4 / Boston Celtics Wins: 2 / Philadelphia 76ers Wins: 2 

RJ Barrett’s buzzer beater to hand the Knicks a 108-105 win over the Boston Celtics on the 6th of January gave Jayson Tatum and his teammates the wake-up call they needed to turn their season around. The Boston Celtics had just blown yet another big lead, snatching a defeat from the jaws of victory despite a 24-point lead.  

This bitter moment marked a turn in their form. The Celtics went on to win 33 of their next 43 games as they finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference. They also went on to make the NBA finals for the first time since 2010 after an impressive playoff run that saw them sweep Kevin Durant & the Brooklyn Nets, the then-reigning champions, Milwaukee Bucks & Giannis Antetokounmpo before beating the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.  

They ultimately fell to a more experienced and better coached Golden State Warriors team in the final as Steph Curry proved to be too big of an obstacle for the young Celtics to hurdle.  

Ahead of the new season, they went back to the drawing board, drafted well but more importantly, made the right trades bringing in Guard, Malcolm Brogdon from the Indiana Pacers to lead to their second unit. Everything seemed set for the Celtics to make another run to the finals in the new season and, maybe, win it this time. But then, controversy struck.  

Ime Udoka, the rookie Head Coach responsible for the huge leap the team took last season, was suspended for a year by the Celtics for an improper but consensual intimate relationship with a female staff member – a huge blow to the Celtics’ promising project. Joe Mazzulla, the 34-year-old Assistant Head Coach who had been with the coaching staff since 2019, was subsequently named as the interim-head coach ahead of the season as more uncertainties continued to surround the team off-the court.  

Weeks before the Ime Udoka news broke, new signing Danilo Gallinari tore his ACL while on duty with the Italian National team, keeping him out for the season. The team’s #1 rim protector and one of the league’s best defenders, Robert Williams III also had a knee operation which could see him miss up to 3-months. Despite these enormous obstacles, BetKing still has the Boston Celtics as the 2nd-favourites to win the NBA title @7.25. This young Celtics team has overcome almost everything the Basketball gods have thrown their way and, led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown & Marcus Smart, they’ll remain title contenders. 

The Sixers have the 7th-best odds to win the title @14.00. Last season, MVP runner-up Joel Embiid had a career year as he averaged 30.6pts and beat LeBron James to the scoring title, becoming the first center since Shaquille O’Neal to win a scoring title (29.7 ppg in 1999/2000) & the first center to average over 30 points per game since Moses Malone (31.1 ppg in 1981/82). Embiid was borderline unstoppable until he suffered a facial fracture and a concussion after being elbowed by Raptors’ Pascal Siakam in the first round of the playoffs. The injury proved too much for an Embiid-dependent Sixers team to overcome and they were knocked out by Miami Heat in the next round. This season, the Sixers’ roster looks better with a healthy & in-shape James Harden – who surprisingly took a significant pay cut in the offseason to enable the team to get better players – alongside new additions De’Anthony Melton and P.J. Tucker – quality additions to the defense which has made them one of just five teams projected to finish in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating.  

With the Celtics’ lack of size on opening night, it’ll be next-to-impossible to keep Joel Embiid quiet. He’ll likely go for more than 30pts as he begins his campaign to finally get his hands on that elusive MVP award. However, this Celtics team seems to have more than enough, especially in their second unit, to overcome Doc Rivers and his team.  



Golden State Warriors v LA Lakers 

Last Season H2H 

Games Played: 4 / Golden State Warriors Wins: 3 / LA Lakers Wins: 1  

For the Golden State Warriors, this season has already been labelled “The Last Dance” by members of the media and fans. This is a nod to the fact that this could be the last time we see the Golden State Warriors core of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson & Draymond Green together as teammates – a direct comparison to Michael Jordan and the 1998 Chicago Bulls team. The Bulls were broken up after the 1998 season following an era of dominance that saw them win 6 titles.  

Initially, these concerns were strictly money related with the Warriors having to let Otto Porter Jr. and Gary Payton II walk in Free Agency. Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins also had to take team-friendly deals to reduce their Luxury Cap hit.  

However, following the incident that saw Draymond Green punch Jordan Poole in the face in a training session a few weeks ago, it’s hard to see the team remaining together beyond this season with the former Defensive Player of the Year likely to opt out of his $27.6m player-option at the end of the season to become a Free Agent with tonight’s opponents, the LA Lakers, a possible destination following his open one-sided bromance with LeBron James in recent years.  

All that drama will be put to the side tonight as the Golden State Warriors will be presented with their Championship rings, the 4th in this era and their 7th overall. The Warriors – BetKing’s favourites to win the NBA Championship @7.00 – kept their off-season transactions to a minimum with SG Donte DiVincenzo the most notable addition. Kevon Looney, Jonathan Kuminga & James Wiseman & are all expected to see an increase in minutes this season while Klay Thompson, who missed a large chunk of the first half of last season, is expected to get back to his old self.  

Visitors, LA Lakers haven’t been as methodical in their roster building. Their shocking trade for a clearly declining Russell Westbrook at the start of last season has left them stuck with a problem they can’t seem to get rid of. At $47m this season, Russell Westbrook is the team’s highest paid player and, following a horrific season by the former league MVP, they’ve unsuccessfully tried to trade him; first, for Nets’ Kyrie Irving and then for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield from the Indiana Pacers.  

While Westbrook struggled for form and Anthony Davis battled multiple injuries last season, LeBron James continued to impress. He came so close to winning the Scoring Title for the only the second time in his career after doing so in the 2007/08 season. His 30.3pts per game was second only to eventual winner Joel Embiid who averaged 30.6pts. Without the help of his co-stars, the burden proved to be too much for him to carry and the Lakers missed the playoffs for the 2nd time in LeBron’s 4-years in Los Angeles. A natural decline is expected to come for the soon to be 38-year-old, but LeBron James has more than enough talent to make up for any physical decline.  

Heading into opening night, the Warriors have few injury concerns. Andre Iguodala will be absent but that won’t have much effect on the team with his influence being more evident in the locker room than on the court since his return to the team. The Lakers on the other hand have some injuries to worry about. Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown and returning Guard, Dennis Schroder will be absent due to injuries while Russell Westbrook could be left out as the team continues to explore options to move on from him.  

Despite the Golden State Warriors being the better team and given the Lakers’ injury problems coupled with a new coach in charge of his career game as a head coach in Darvin Ham, there’s something about watching Steph Curry and his teammates get their rings and unveil their championship banner that is sure to light a fire within LeBron James & Anthony Davis. Their egos will be bruised, and they’ll give almost everything to secure a win and ruin the Warriors’ party.  

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