18-19 Schedule | Team to be Showcased on League's Marquee Dates
If there were any doubts about the interest level in and relevance surrounding the ascending 76ers, the NBA’s first major scheduling announcement for the upcoming season should tell you all you need to know.
On Wednesday evening, the league released the national television docket for its top annual marquee dates - Opening Night, Christmas Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
After taking a resounding step forward last year with an expectations-shattering 52-win campaign, the Sixers will be playing on all three, with their Tuesday, October 16th bout against arch rival and post-season ouster Boston marking the league’s first regular season game of the year.
The 8:00 PM EST contest will be held at TD Garden. According to Turner Sports records, you’d have to go all the way back to 2003 to find the last time the Sixers were featured as part of the Opening Night NBA on TNT telecast.
Two days later, the Sixers will be on TNT once again, for their Thursday, October 18th home opener against the Chicago Bulls.
As for this year’s appearance on Christmas, the Sixers will be battling Boston in a matinee at TD Garden on ABC. After going 16 seasons without playing on the holiday, the Sixers have now been tapped for the league’s premiere in-season showcase for a second year in a row, and 31st time overall.
For their Martin Luther King Jr. Day game, which falls on January 21st, the Sixers will welcome the reigning Western Conference regular season champion Houston Rockets. TNT will have the broadcast.
The rest of the Sixers’ 2018-2019 slate should be released in the coming days.
Below are some quick capsules about the four Sixers’ games unveiled Wednesday...
Opening Night: Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 vs Boston Celtics (8:00 PM EST, NBA on TNT)
By now, the 76ers and Boston Celtics could very well know each other as well as they know themselves. Dating back to last fall, the clubs have faced off 12 times, counting the pre-season, regular season, post-season, and summer league.
It was the C’s, of course, that eliminated the Sixers from the 2018 playoffs in a five-game second-round series.
Looking ahead to 2018-2019, this opening night clash could represent an immediate measuring stick, of sorts. Both the Sixers and Boston have been pegged to finish among the top three in the Eastern Conference this season.
The big storyline surrounding the Celtics heading into the fall, obviously, is the returns of All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving.
Home Opener: Thursday, October 18th, 2018 vs Chicago Bulls (8:00 PM EST, NBA on TNT)
Hosting a Chicago Bulls team that had an active summer, the Sixers will aim to use their first regular season outing at The Center as a means of setting the tone on their home turf.
The Sixers’ performance in South Philadelphia a season ago was critical to their success. The team went 30-10 in games at The Center, which was good for the second-best home record in the East.
In addition to bringing back a young core consisting of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Lauri Markkanen, Chicago drafted Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr. seventh overall. The Bulls also inked hometown product Jabari Parker, the 2014 no. 2 pick, via free agency.
Christmas Day: Tuesday, December 25th, 2018 @ Boston Celtics (5:30 PM EST, NBA on ABC)
It's another nationally televised appearance against the Celtics.
Noteworthy about this particular pairing, however, is that it will come on the final day of what Brett Brown traditionally dubs the “first-third” of the season.
The timing of this game could give us a better sense of how the Sixers and Boston stack up head-to-head compared to Opening Night, when both teams will still be getting their feet wet.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Monday, January 21st, 2019 vs Houston Rockets (8:00 PM EST, NBA on TNT)
Two of the NBA’s top-five regular season teams, the Sixers and Rockets played each other close last year. They first met at The Center in late October, then, less than a week later, squared off at Toyota Center.
Houston escaped the first tilt with a 105-104 victory, while the Sixers took the re-match, 115-107. The loss was one of only seven at home in the regular season for the Rockets, which went on to establish a new team record with 65 victories.