The NBA released its opening week national TV schedule Wednesday, along with games on the marquee Christmas and MLK Day slates.
In short order, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted the early lines on those games:
NBA regular season
— Jeff Sherman (@golfodds) August 8, 2018
Let’s rank the lines we’ve got from tastiest to stankiest. Team with line next to it is the chosen side.
Milwaukee Bucks (-4) at New York Knicks, Christmas Day: Wait, you can get the Bucks, with the East’s best player in Giannis Antetokounmpo, vs. the Knicks, who will very likely be without Kristaps Porzingis? The Knicks are going to be downright awful this season, even when Porzingis gets back. The young core is pretty good, and there’s hope for the future, but they should not be within six points of this Bucks team.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+5) at Houston Rockets, Christmas Day: The Thunder went 2-1 vs. the Rockets last year straight-up, in a year when very little went right for OKC. They will be better this year despite the offseason loss of Carmelo Anthony (which is addition by subtraction), after he was traded, bought out and added by Houston (which is subtraction by addition).
Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder played well below their ability last season, have another year with Paul George and Russell Westbrook together, and will get Andre Roberson back. Houston lost key contributors and has a more injury-prone core.
Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (-4.5), Christmas Day: This game goes here over the opening night game on account of not knowing the state of Kyrie Irving’s health entering the season after surgery last year. The Celtics were 3-1 against the spread vs. the Sixers last year, and they present a number of matchup problems.
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ben Simmons (25) and Jayson Tatum (0).
Joel Embiid had trouble with not only Al Horford, but Aron Baynes. Brad Stevens schemed Ben Simmons’ jumper deficiency into a downward spiral so bad Trent Reznor produced the soundtrack for it, and the Celtics, at home, were 37-15 ATS last season.
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Philadelphia 76ers at Boston Celtics (-4.5), opening night: All the reasons stated above, with the caveat of opening night being soon enough to not have a feel on where Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are at in their development. There’s obviously risk with both of them at Christmas as well, but this remains scrumptious.
Oklahoma City Thunder (+8.5) at Golden State Warriors: OKC was only a road underdog 10 times last season; that number surprised me. The Thunder were 6-4 ATS in those games, 1-1 ATS vs. the Warriors. However, last season Golden State was 16-23 as a home favorite ATS, 7-13 vs. teams over .500 in that spot.
Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Stephen Curry shoots over Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder matchup was tough for the Warriors last season. The reason to hesitate here is that Golden State was affected by its preseason trip to China last season. Without that in place, the Warriors might be more ready to go on ring night.
TOUGH TO CHEW
Portland Trail Blazers at Utah Jazz (-5.5), Christmas Day: Portland lost Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier, two key contributors. There’s a lot of talk about grumpiness from Damian Lillard, and the front office is under pressure to clear cap space and improve the team. Meanwhile, the Jazz return a core that when healthy, was absolutely blistering last season.
Utah was 48-51-2 ATS at home as a favorite the past three seasons in the Quin Snyder era, but the Blazers are 39-41-2 ATS on the road as an underdog. Utah was 2-2 vs. Portland ATS last season.
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Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors (-10.5), Christmas Day: That’s just a hilariously high line, and it comes in the marquee game of the regular season. The fact that it is laid against the best player of a generation (arguably all time) only heightens the fun.
Taking the Warriors feels dicey because it’s laying double digits and the Warriors were 16-19 ATS when doing so last season (5-9 at home, 6-9 vs. teams over .500). Taking the Lakers feels dicey because, well, this team doesn’t even begin to match up on paper.
Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kevin Durant (35), Lonzo Ball.
There might be value in locking this number in at whatever limit you can in the event that the Lakers are better than expected and get bet down considerably between now and Christmas.
Overall, though, this is the NBA’s biggest game, and it doesn’t feel like you can trust the Warriors to manage the lofty expectations or the Lakers to handle a withering line of doubt.