It’s here! It’s finally here! NBA Opening Night will tip off with the Boston Celtics hosting the Philadelphia 76ers.
The 2018-19 season opens with considerable excitement for the Celtics, as they return almost all of the roster that advanced to within one game of the NBA Finals last year. In addition, Boston returns Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis to the title chase, as all three return from injury. Tonight will mark Hayward’s first regular season game in front of the home fans, after he suffered a broken leg on opening night in Cleveland last year.
The 76ers represent a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference semi-finals. The Celtics won that series 4-1, after going up 3-0. Other than the series opener, each game was tightly contested, and tonight should be no different. The young Sixers hope that having Markelle Fultz back, along with further development from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, will push them forward in the East.
Brad Stevens said he expects to have the full roster (minus Jabari Bird, who remains away from the team) at his disposal. Stevens also said that Hayward will likely be limited to around 25 minutes for at least the first couple of weeks of the season. Philadelphia has ruled out Wilson Chandler (hamstring), and will also likely be without Mike Muscala (ankle). Simmons missed a recent practice with neck stiffness, but should be good to go for the opener.
With Fultz back, the 76ers have tweaked their starting lineup. Fultz will start, while J.J. Redick will come off the bench. Without offseason additions Chandler and Muscala, the Sixers will be a bit shorthanded in the reserve department. They hope Redick can pick up the slack and provide some scoring and shooting on the second unit.
Stevens declined to announce a starting lineup, leaving a bit of mystery leading up to the tip. Some have speculated that he could play the matchups and start Aron Baynes, who defends Embiid as well as anyone. While Baynes should play plenty, it is likely that Boston will open with the same five as last season: Irving, Hayward, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford.
PG - Kyrie Irving - Ben Simmons
SG - Jaylen Brown - Markelle Fultz
SF - Gordon Hayward - Robert Covington
PF - Jayson Tatum - Dario Saric
C - Al Horford - Joel Embiid
Boston - Jabari Bird (personal)
Philadelphia - Jerryd Bayless (knee), Wilson Chandler (hamstring), Mike Muscala (ankle), Zhaire Smith (foot)
How to Watch
Time - 8:00 PM EST
TV - TNT
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