76ers vs. Celtics Preview: Joel Embiid, Philly Have Value Opening Night

Austin Wang breaks down the first game of the NBA season as the 76ers face the Celtics in Boston on Tuesday, October 18th.

76ers vs. Celtics Odds

76ers Odds +118
Celtics Odds -138
Over/Under 216
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

After four long months, the NBA regular season returns on Tuesday evening and starts off with a terrific double-header on TNT as the Boston Celtics host the Philadelphia 76ers in a battle of Eastern Conference powerhouses.

The sentiment of these two teams is shifting in opposite directions. The Celtics organization has been in the news lately for the wrong reasons. On the other hand, the Sixers are entering the season with a lot of optimism upon news of James Harden getting into shape and some solid offseason acquisitions.

The Celtics opened up as four-point favorites, but the line has moved against the defending Eastern Conference champions. This number has been bet down as low as 2.5 (as of Monday afternoon). Let’s break down this game and to see if this line move was warranted.

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Will the 76ers Make a Leap with Better Depth?

The Philadelphia 76ers are off another disappointing playoff exit. Harden had a poor showing in the postseason, but offseason reports of him getting back into shape have made fans optimistic that he can return to his superstar form. After being traded to the Sixers midseason, he only shot 40.2% from the field and never developed much chemistry with fellow star Joel Embiid.

Tyrese Maxey saw an incredible leap in his sophomore season as one of the Sixers’ most dependable and efficient scorers. He thrived in the starting lineup, averaging 17.5 points per game on 48.5% shooting from the field, and will look to continue his rise as a star in this league.

P.J. Tucker, Montrezl Harrell, De’Anthony Melton and Danuel House round out a list of savvy, low-risk offseason acquisitions. Daryl Morey continues to hoard and target former Houston Rockets to build out his squad.

I can see each of these players making a huge impact on a team that has struggled with depth. Tucker, Melton and House are great perimeter defenders and 3-point shooters who will help spread the floor. Harrell brings energy off the bench while Embiid is resting.

The Sixers finished the season with a modest 11th-ranked Offensive Rating (113.0) and 12th-ranked Defensive Rating (110.2), per NBA Advanced Stats. With their roster moves and a more engaged Harden, I anticipate both of those metrics will improve this season.

Embiid played a career-high 68 games last season. The success of the 76ers’ season will depend heavily on Embiid’s health. I expect him to be unstoppable in the paint against a Celtics team without Robert Williams III looming down low. Tucker and Matisse Thybulle are two ferocious defenders who will make life tough for Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Will the Celtics Defense Stay Elite Without Timelord?

The Celtics had an impressive 2021-2022 season, but their quest for the NBA championship fell short after they lost to the Golden State Warriors in The Finals. The Warriors’ experience and depth proved to be too much, and the Celtics immediately addressed those depth concerns in the offseason.

They acquired Malcolm Brogdon, Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari to beef up their bench. That excitement waned quickly after Gallinari tore his ACL while playing on the Italian National Team in the FIBA World Cup.

Shortly thereafter, head coach Ime Udoka was involved in a scandal that resulted in his suspension for the entire season. Boston will now embark on this season with an interim head coach, Joe Mazzulla. He will have the task of leading this young team to success amidst all these distractions.

The Celtics led the league in Defensive Rating (106.2) last season, per NBA Advanced Stats. They were one of three teams (Celtics, Suns, Jazz) to be in the top 10 in both Offensive and Defensive Rating. However, one of the biggest contributors to their defensive success is Williams III, who will miss the first few months of the season to recover from knee surgery.

On/Off numbers indicate the Celtics’ Defensive Rating worsens by 3.7 points when he is off the court, per Basketball Reference. In addition, the Celtics were 5-11 ATS as home favorites last season with their springy big man off the court, per the Sports Data Query Language at Gimme the Dog. Without Williams III, it will be tough for Al Horford and the Celtics’ frontcourt to stop Embiid.

76ers-Celtics Pick

The line movement towards the Sixers is justified. Their stock is trending upwards with Harden getting in shape, solid offseason pickups and a full training camp with their two stars.

On the other hand, the offseason distractions, new coach and Timelord’s injury are all reasons the Celtics may get off to a slow start this season. They struggled to begin last season, and I can see the same this year.

I make this line Celtics -2, so I like the Sixers to cover the spread here.  Make sure you shop for lines because the spread is ranging between 2 and 3.5.

Pick: Sixers +2.5 (down to +2)