76ers-Celtics Opening Night Betting Preview: Can Philly Keep Up Offensively?

76ers-Celtics Opening Night Betting Preview: Can Philly Keep Up Offensively? article feature image

Photos from USATODAY Sports. Pictured: Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum.

Betting odds: Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics

  • Spread: Celtics -5
  • Over/Under: 210.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: TNT

The first game of the 2018-19 NBA season is finally upon us, and our NBA crew is here to discuss what it’s watching for, favorite bets and betting trends to know for tonight’s affair.

What Moore Is Watching For

The Celtics won three of the four matchups last season. Their average margin of victory in those games was 10.7, with the last matchup coming as the Celtics’ injuries started to overwhelm them. Then, in the playoffs, Boston ran roughshod over the Sixers, scheming out both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, and that was when the Sixers had better shooters in Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

Brad Stevens is 4-1 in season openers ATS. Meanwhile, the Sixers are basically starting a rookie point guard with how few games Markelle Fultz played last season. The Celtics offense being a hazmat zone in the preseason has me a little spooked, and I like the under here quite a bit as a result, but Boston has a chance to start off a season with its highest expectations since 2009, at home, vs. a historic and current rival, with a tight spread.

One thing I’m really focused on here is how small the Sixers go when Embiid’s not on the floor, and how Boston responds. Boston’s best lineup is smaller with Al Horford at the 5, but Aron Baynes will get time against Embiid with his physicality. Baynes gave Embiid fits in that playoff series. When Embiid sits, will the Sixers go smallball, and how small will Boston go to counter? Additionally, how Robert Covington matches up with Jayson Tatum will be important to watch. Matt Moore

Shooting Is a Big Question for Philly

During last season’s playoff series, I remarked after every game about how unlucky the 76ers were shooting the ball. They were fine during the regular season, shooting 35% on open shots (defender 4-6 feet away). In three games against Boston in the regular season, they shot 37.1% on such attempts.

But during the playoff series against Boston, the 76ers went ice cold, hitting just 25% of their open shots. You could call that unlucky, and you’d probably be correct, but the baseline is different this season without Ilyasova and Belinelli and with Fultz starting over J.J. Redick.

I typically like to spot shooting regression candidates and bet them, but I’m not sure if that applies here. Boston has seemingly figured out the 76ers offense, and outside of a hot night, Philly will struggle to score. I’ll take the home team here. Bryan Mears

Why Locky Is Betting the Celtics

Game 1 means we have no real meaningful data yet, no metrics about lineups playing together this season and no metrics about offensive/defensive efficiencies or preferences. There are certainly a lot more questions than answers.

A couple things I think are not currently being factored very strongly into this number, though: The extent to which we still have no idea whether Simmons can adapt his game to meaningful, complex defensive adjustments by Boston and the extent to which Philadelphia’s second unit will be able to hold its own in this game.

First, Simmons. The Celtics famously made life very difficult for him in the playoffs by forcing him into uncomfortable situations and exploiting his lack of a jump shot. There were situations in which T.J. McConnell was absolutely more valuable on the court than Simmons was in that series. We have no evidence that will change, and the pieces involved in Boston’s game plan are all back. Throw in the fact that Simmons missed practice Saturday due to a stiff neck, which is mildly concerning.

Second, the Sixers bench. A lot of its success in the regular season last season occurred after acquiring Ilyasova and Belinelli, who are both gone. Philly acquired Wilson Chandler, but he isn’t going to play in this game due to injury. There are going to be an awful lot of responsibilities placed on Fultz, whether he likes it or not. You may see Philly go only eight deep here unless it wants to give Landry Shamet a few minutes. When the starting unit for Philly isn’t intact on the court in this game, Boston has a massive advantage because of its incredible depth.

So obviously, both teams have plenty of questions, and both teams have chemistry issues that will need to be ironed out over the course of a season. But although it’s Game 1, the state in which the Sixers enter the game is unappealing from a few angles, both in terms of health and depth. When factoring in an average home-court advantage (3-ish points), at -5 you’re saying the differences between the teams are tiny. I disagree and will have a small bet on Boston at the current number. Ken Barkley

Betting Trends to Know

Since becoming an NBA head coach in 2013-14, Brad Stevens is the most profitable coach in the league, going 221-183-6 (55%) ATS in the regular season. He went an NBA-best 50-30-2 (63%) ATS in 2017-18. However, the Celtics have struggled a bit against the number as home favorites: 75-71-3 (51%) ATS since 2013. The last two seasons, the team is 31-39-2 (44%) ATS when favored at TD Garden.

Last season, Stevens was 13-5 ATS (+7.5 units) when the Celtics were on at least three days’ rest between games, including their opener against the Cavaliers. That bucks the longer trend: In his first four seasons, he was just 25-37 (-13.2) ATS in such situations, although he was still 3-1 in openers. John Ewing

Since Philadelphia took Embiid with the third pick of the 2014 NBA draft, the Sixers (+14.5 units) and Celtics (+38.5 units) are the two most profitable teams ATS (including the playoffs).

Since 2014, the Sixers’ least profitable opponent is … the Boston Celtics. Philly is 3-18 SU and 7-14 ATS against Boston, including 2-7 SU and 3-6 ATS when Embiid is in the lineup. — Evan Abrams

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.