The NBA’s conference finals will begin next May, but fans could be getting a glimpse of the league’s Final Four on Tuesday night as the 2017/18 season begins a week earlier than usual. It’s a fantastic doubleheader as Cleveland hosts Boston and Golden State welcomes Houston.
The Association is starting the season seven days sooner in an effort to cut down on back-to-backs and three games in four nights for teams this season. Commissioner Adam Silver is hoping that will limit teams resting marquee players even when healthy, which has become somewhat of an epidemic.
Tuesday’s opener between the Celtics and Cavaliers is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, won by Cleveland in five games. The Cavaliers opened as 5.5-point favorites for this one on the NBA betting lines at the sportsbooks but are down to -3, and that line would shift more if LeBron James doesn’t play. James suffered a sprained ankle on September 27 and played in just one preseason game.
It’s hard to imagine James won’t go because this one is likely to be personal after his former teammate, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, demanded a trade this offseason as Irving was tired of playing in James’ shadow. That the Cavaliers complied with Irving’s wishes wasn’t a surprise. That they sent him to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizc and the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick was a stunner.
Many believed the Cavaliers won that trade – if Thomas, the NBA’s third-leading scorer last year, is healthy. Thomas isn’t, though, recovering from a hip injury that cut short his East Finals against the Cavaliers. He’s not likely to play until January. This will be the Cleveland debut of LeBron’s former Miami Heat running mate in Dwyane Wade and former NBA MVP Derrick Rose. Neither is quite what he used to be.
In the nightcap, the Warriors are 9.5-point betting favorites over the Rockets at online gambling sites. Golden State brings everyone of note back to its “superteam” and is a heavy favorite to win a third NBA title in four seasons. The Dubs will raise the latest banner to the Oracle Arena rafters before Tuesday’s game.
Houston finished with the West’s third-best record last year and traded for Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul to team with 2016-17 MVP runner-up James Harden and form potentially the NBA’s most spectacular backcourt.
Golden State was upset at home against Houston in the teams’ first meeting last season, but the Warriors won the final three. Including playoffs, Golden State has won eight of the past 10 in this series and covered in seven.