The NBA season is just a few days old. There has already been drama, controversy (mainly from the Lakers and Rockets) and a few eyebrow-raising results. We would not expect anything else from the league that flips between the brilliant and soap opera.
The intense schedule throws up some belting matchups every week. Here are a few thoughts on the most intriguing games…
DETROIT PISTONS vs PHILADEPHIA 76ERS (Wednesday, 12am)
Detroit have taken advantage of games with the Nets and Bulls to start the year 2-0. Blake Griffin has lived up to his contract with a couple of good performances and Andre Drummond has been his usual self in the paint.
Dwane Casey’s team face their biggest test of the season when Philly visit this week, though.
The Sixers were poor on opening night against the Celtics as their lack of outside shooting cost them again.
A pair of massive Joel Embiid performances saw off Magic and Bulls, however, while Markelle Fultz hit his first NBA three-pointer and JJ Redick was brilliant after Ben Simmons was pulled from the game with a back issue.
How Drummond guards Embiid will be the key here (particularly if Simmons is out). Philly’s defence was excellent in the second half of last season but hasn’t started this year well.
This could be a high-scoring game with the Sixers happy to move the ball in transition.
TIP: Over 230.5 points
TORONTO RAPTORS vs Minnesota Timberwolves (Thursday, 12:30am)
It shouldn’t be that surprising how good Toronto are. The team got better in the offseason with the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard, who looks fully healthy after a troubled year in San Antonio.
Leonard carried Toronto to victory over the Celtics, then his teammates saw off the Wizards while he rested.
Minnesota are still a mess with the Jimmy Butler situation. Butler helped them see off the Cavaliers for their only win of the season, but he was left out against the Mavericks and they lost.
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have shown the same weaknesses we saw in last season’s playoffs.
Toronto were immense at home last season. It’s impossible to see past Kawhi and that defence with how Towns and Wiggins have started the year.
TIP: Toronto to win
HOUSTON ROCKETS vs UTAH JAZZ (Thursday, 1am)
Houston have had a nightmare start to the year. It’s only three games, but the Rockets sit at 1-2 after defeat to the Clippers.
Chris Paul is suspended and will miss the visit of Utah later this week. The losses of Luc Mbah A Moute and Trevor Ariza have made a massive impact to Houston’s defence.
The season has started better for Utah, who lost to the Warriors by a solitary point in their second game of the campaign
A matchup with the Grizzlies before they play Houston will be key to how they approach this one.
The Jazz are a good defensive unit, led by Rudy Gobert. Houston’s games are all going to be shootouts though, and this could come down to which of James Harden and Donovan Mitchell has the bigger night.
TIP: Over 230.5 points
Los Angeles Lakers vs DENVER NUGGETS (Friday, 3:30am)
LeBron James has been philosophical about his 0-2 start as a Laker.
A tough schedule at the beginning of the year meant a tricky beginning was probable, but questions will quickly be asked if LeBron can’t pick up a W or two soon.
Denver have come flying out of the blocks to notch a 3-0 record.
Nikola Jokic has been his usual brilliant self, with plenty of support from his teammates. Gary Harris hit 28 points in the surprise win over Golden State at the weekend, for instance.
Denver are a dark horse for a top four berth in the Western Conference. Jokic could dominate at Staples Centre in the early hours of Friday morning.
TIP: Denver Nuggets to win
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*