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NBA Tip-Off 2018 – What to Watch

Our long national nightmare is over: the NBA is back. Let the late nights of League Pass surfing, Twitter scrolling, and non-stop flame emoji texting begin.

NBA Logo by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

NBA Tip-Off 2018 – What to Watch

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

Our long national nightmare is over: the NBA is back. Let the late nights of League Pass surfing, Twitter scrolling, and non-stop flame emoji texting begin.

The NBA is simultaneously the least competitive and most compelling league to follow right now. Yes – the Golden State Warriors are the heavy favorites to win it all, again. Barring injuries or a Manchurian situation where we find out Daryl Morey is secretly paying DeMarcus Cousins to ruin the Dubs from the inside, we’re likely going to be seeing another Golden State championship in June. Which, ugh. I’m over it. 

BUT! That doesn’t even for a second diminish my love for the NBA. What sets this league apart, what makes amazing happen on any given night, is that every matchup gives you something to watch.

Teams a notch below the Warriors – like the Rockets, Celtics, Raptors – will be pushing for top playoff seeds and tweaking their lineups to find the special sauce to unseat the Warriors. The Western Conference should have like 10 teams all within a few games of each other vying for the playoffs. LeBron James is not playing in the Eastern Conference for the first time since the 2002-2003 season and there are a whole lotta teams who think they have a shot to make a jump to the playoffs.

Even kinda scrub teams like Orlando and Sacramento have exciting young players who could blossom into stars before your bleary eyes as you sorta ill-advisedly stay awake for the 4th Quarter of a west coast game at 1AM on a Wednesday in January even though you have a meeting at 9AM the next day in a random part of town you never visit.

The riches abound!

To kick things off, all 30 NBA teams are in action over the next three days. That’s a lot of hoops. Let me help you pick your spots over the next few nights. 

Must Watch

76ers at Celtics – Tuesday, 8PM EST. TNT. 

A rematch from last year’s second-round playoff series. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are already stars. I’m excited to see their progression and to see if Simmons has figured out, like, how to shoot the ball yet. Actually, come to think of it, same goes for Markelle Fultz.

This is our first chance to see Boston’s squad with all its compliments since last season’s opening night ended in shock, horror, silence, tears, and more shock. Eyes will be on Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving to see how they look physically, as well as how Brad Stevens meshes everyone together.

A lot of contrarians (aka haters) are all, “There’s too many good players on this team; they’re gonna struggle” which on its face is a pretty silly thing to say until you consider…. actually no. It’s just silly. The Celtics are gonna be fun as hell.

Lakers at Trail Blazers – Thursday, 10:30PM EST. TNT.

Just gonna leave this here:

Timberwolves at Spurs – Wednesday, 8:30PM EST. League Pass

This is sorta must-watch in the way that a train wreck is must-watch except you don’t have to feel bad about watching this basketball game and you should probably feel bad about watching a train wreck.

Obviously, the big question is what’s going on with Jimmy Butler. He’s supposed to play despite his trade request and despite last week’s practice where he basically questioned the manhood/credentials/reality of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. I’m really interested to see them on the court together. Like I feel like there’s a 2% chance Jimmy just doesn’t pass the whole game. Oddly I think that would maybe give them a better chance at winning?

Also, seeing DeMar DeRozan in a Spurs uniform is gonna be very weird. 

Watch the Condensed Version

Thunder at Warriors – Tuesday, 10:30PM EST. TNT.

I understand why this is one of the two marquee games on opening night, and I’ll obviously watch it, but I feel like I’ve seen this game already. Golden State will start out a little slow, maybe look a little rusty. OKC will have a lot of energy, hang around, maybe even go up by 10 or 15 in the first half. 

Then, just as you’ve finished brushing your teeth, changing into your PJs and getting nice and comfy on the couch for the second half, the Warriors will go on a face-melting third quarter run where they blow the game open in a span of about 5 minutes. 

Bucks at Hornets – Wednesday, 7PM EST. League Pass.

Greek Freak is getting some MVP buzz. About 5-1 odds to win it. And in his last pre-season game he had a triple-double in like 4 minutes. Dude is a joy to watch. 

Cavs at Raptors – Wednesday, 7:30PM EST. League Pass.

While pretty much all of the pundits and writers are predicting the Celtics to come out of the East, basically all of the stats-based projections actually have Toronto winning. It all depends on Kawhi’s health, obviously, and Wednesday is our first opportunity to see him in action in far too long. 

Sneaky good over/under wins pick for the season? Cleveland’s line is set at 30.5 wins. I’m betting on a sneaky good season from the Cavs and something like a 7 seed in the playoffs. Take the ovah. 

Pelicans at Rockets – Wednesday, 8PM EST. ESPN. 

Some numbers:

Last season following DeMarcus Cousins’ season-ending injury, Anthony Davis averaged 30.6 points, 11.75 boards, and over 3 blocks per game. That’s, um, very good. 

Not so bold prediction: if the Pelicans are a 4 seed or higher, AD wins the MVP. 

From an aesthetic standpoint, I’m not a huge fan of the way the Rockets play. Like I understand the artistry it takes to draw fouls in the way Harden does, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy watching people draw fouls. 

That said, a lot of people are burying Houston before the season even begins, and I think that’s a mistake. Squad still has a ton of talent. 

Also, I <3 Melo and I won’t even apologize for it. 

Catch the Highlights

Jazz at Kings – Wednesday, 10PM EST. League Pass.

The Jazz are gonna be a very, very fun team to watch this season. Donovan Mitchell is unreal and Joe Ingles gives all white dudes with male-pattern balding a good name. 

Who am I kidding. This should be a must watch. 

Nuggets at Clippers – Wednesday, 10:30PM EST. League Pass.

I don’t think the Clippers are very good. Like they should probably try to be bad. But honestly, Austin Rivers doesn’t know how to not try like hell to win and they have some pretty decent dudes on the roster, so if they stay healthy I could see this team being around .500 for the year.

Denver’s got the best passing big in the game, Nikola Jokic, which really makes all of their games a must watch. AND Isaiah Thomas is with this squad now, and that dude will always have my heart forever. 

So…. yeah that’s another must watch. Shit I’m not good at this.

Mavericks at Suns – Wednesday, 10:30PM EST. ESPN.

Luka Doncic by Javier Mendia García is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Best bet of the year? Luka Doncic at +333 to win Rookie of the Year. Dude’s been playing professional basketball since he was like 11. 

Everything Else? Just Watch It.

There are so many things happening. Apologies to the teams I didn’t include, but this piece is already too long. 

I’m bubbling with excitement. I can’t sit still. I’ve been waiting for this week for months and now it’s finally here. 

If you’re new to the NBA, welcome. Grab a chair. There’s plenty of room to enjoy the amazing.

If you’re returning, then you already know: the NBA is the best league in the world and it’s never been better. Let’s go. Flame emojis.

Actor. Celts and Sox fan. NBA League Pass enthusiast.

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