There seems to be a little more urgency for the NBA’s in-season tournament, but you can understand if the Philadelphia 76ers were looking ahead a bit on Tuesday night.
It’s early in the season, but the 76ers and Boston Celtics already look like the two best teams in the Eastern Conference. They face off on Wednesday.
The 76ers lost on Tuesday to the Indiana Pacers, knocking them back to 8-2 for the season. The ties them with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the East. The Celtics are a 4.5-point favorite at BetMGM for Wednesday’s game.
The Celtics were expected to be among the best teams in the NBA. The 76ers’ early success isn’t a total shock, but they’re exceeding expectations a bit.
Tyrese Maxey’s breakout is a huge reason. The 76ers finally traded James Harden and then watched Maxey take a big step forward. He’s averaging 28.4 points per game. He averaged 20.3 last season and was a good, young player. This season he’s a potential all star.
Coaching helps too. The 76ers moved on from Doc Rivers and hired Nick Nurse, and Nurse is having a big impact so far. The Milwaukee Bucks, who hired first-time head coach Adrian Griffin and have looked disjointed most of the season, probably regret not going harder after Nurse.
The teams met once, and the 76ers won 106-103 last week. Joel Embiid and Maxey combined for 52 points. The Celtics are favored Wednesday, likely because point spreads are shaded against teams playing the second night of back-to-backs, but it’s not like the 76ers are intimidated by the Celtics or can’t beat them. It should feel like a playoff atmosphere to kick off ESPN’s doubleheader on Wednesday.
Here’s the first look at the sports betting slate for Wednesday:
More from the NBA
The second game of the ESPN doubleheader, not surprisingly, features the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers play the Sacramento Kings. Both teams are off to moderately disappointing starts, with records just above .500. The Lakers are 1.5-point favorites on Wednesday night. That’s one of the eight games on the NBA slate.
A better game out West might be the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Phoenix Suns. The Suns, who should be getting Devin Booker back, are 5.5-point favorites. That seems high if the Timberwolves play their starters, even after Minnesota played (and beat) the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. The Suns will have their top three of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Booker on the court for the first time together on Wednesday, however.
Best of the rest
It’s pretty quiet night elsewhere. There are two MAC football games: Buffalo at Miami (-8.5) and Central Michigan at Ohio (-10.5). The NHL has four games. There’s only one game with a top 25 college basketball team, and it’s Rice at Texas. Texas is a 20.5-point favorite. Thursday will be a better schedule.
What’s the best bet?
I like this Timberwolves team. I get that the Suns will get a nice boost from having their big three on the court together and Minnesota is coming off a game Tuesday, but unless the Timberwolves sit key players I’ll take them and the 5.5 points. That should be a really good game in Phoenix.