Tonight’s TNT doubleheader pits three of the league’s title contenders and the Los Angeles Lakers. In the first matchup, Eastern Conference giants Bucks and 76ers tipoff in Philadelphia at 7:30 pm EST. For the Sixers, they return home to the City of Brotherly Love after being beat up in Boston on Opening Night. Joel Embiid and James Harden combined for 61 points with 21 trips to the free throw line, but Doc Rivers got little production from his bench. Both Grant Williams and Malcolm Brogdon outscored the entire Sixers second unit who only mustered a total of eight points. The Bucks start their season limping in to Game 1. Both Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton are expected to miss several weeks with wrist and calf injuries respectively; their big offseason signing, Joe Ingles, is still rehabbing and isn’t expected back until after the holidays. However, Milwaukee still boasts former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and a cast of shooters to surround him.
Out west, we’ll get the Battle of Los Angeles with the Lakers “hosting” the Clippers in their hallway series at Crypto.com Arena. The Lakers return home after getting crushed by the defending champs up in the Bay on Tuesday night. Like the 76ers, LA got production out of their Big Three — Anthony Davis scored an efficient 27, LeBron James led the team with 31, and (ahem) Russell Westbrook 19 with eleven rebounds — but their young supporting cast just wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Warriors depth of talent. This will be the Clippers opener and they open the season as the Western Conference’s favorite. Kawhi Leonard is back (but may come off the bench to start the year per Yahoo!’s Chris Haynes) and Paul George is healthy. The Clips boast one of the deepest benches in the league that includes newly acquired John Wall, Norman Powell, Luke Kennard, Nicolas Batum, and Robert Covington, and Terance Mann.
Philadelphia is a home favorite at -4 with the Clippers surprisingly just a -5.5 to beat the Lakers, but let’s dig deeper into a fun prop bet for tonight. After a year away from the game, Kawhi Leonard has an over/under of 17.5 points. It’s a curious wager considering he’s averaged over 21 points in his last six seasons in San Antonio, Toronto, and Los Angeles. For what it’s worth, in 2020-2021, Kawhi scored 26 points in the season opener against their cross town rival and just 19 and 15 in two subsequent blowouts. But regardless of whether or not he’s starting or coming off the bench, he’ll be going up against a smaller Lakers team filled with young inexperienced guards. Outside of LBJ, who’s going to stop Kawhi from proving he’s back? Austin Reaves? Juan Toscano-Anderson? Unless the game gets completely out of hand early, Mr. Fun Guy should cruise comfortably in his comeback. Take the over at -105.
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