NBA Opening Night Predictions
Orlando Magic at New Orleans Pelicans (Local TV)
The Magic will be shorthanded when they face the Pelicans. Victor Oladipo will be out indefinitely after suffering a facial fracture in practice on Thursday. Oladipo missed the preseason due to a sprained MCL in his left knee. New addition Channing Frye has also missed the entire preseason and remains out with a sprained MCL in his left knee.
It looks like Evan Fournier will get the start at shooting guard alongside rookie Elfrid Payton. Rookie Aaron Gordon will backup Tobias Harris but he might see time at small forward. Expect a solid game from Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. Gordon and Payton will look solid on the defensive end as they struggle to find their offensive game.
All eyes will be on Pelicans’ forward Anthony Davis. He will have a big game as he showcases all his skills. The Jrue Holiday-Anthony Davis pick and roll will be in full effect as they picked up where they left off before Holiday got injured.
The Pelicans will defend the paint well with the addition of Omer Asik and force the Magic to knock down some outside jumpers. Orlando will struggle from distances and will lose a close game to the Pelicans on the road. Don’t be surprised if Jimmer Fredette gets more time than Austin Rivers.
Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs (TNT) 8 pm
It is Banner Night for the Spurs who haven’t lost an opening night game since the start of the 2008-09 season. They are in for a tough game against the Mavericks. The Mavericks were the only team to push the Spurs to seven games last season.
The Spurs may be without Kawhi Leonard who is battling an eye infection. Aside from that everyone from their championship team returns. Patty Mills is still out after offseason shoulder surgery.
The Mavericks lost Vince Carter this offseason but added Tyson Chandler, Chandler Parsons Al-Farouq Aminu and Jameer Nelson. They have great depth and will give the Spurs all they can handle. Monta Ellis gave the Spurs problems in the playoffs last season; expect a big game from him.
It will be another great battle between Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan. The game will be close but neither team will be in mid-season form. It will be a high scoring game with clutch plays being made in the 4th quarter. Tony Parker and Duncan will match Nowitzki and Ellis bucket for bucket late in the fourth. The Spurs will get the necessary stops to close out the game.
Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Lakers (TNT) 10:30
The Return of the Mamba will have our attention. This is the first of 28 National TV appearances for the Lakers. There will be somber news as the media will mention that Steve Nash will miss the entire season.
The Rockets lost Chandler Parsons but replaced him with Trevor Ariza. James Harden and Dwight Howard were good in their first season together but they were knocked out in the first round.
The Lakers do not have a defensive minded roster so it will be interesting to see if they can stop the Rockets. Get used to hearing Carlos Boozer yell after every possession Rookie Julius Randle will make his season debut and I don’t think he will see much time. Coach Scott does not want them shooting three pointers but I don’t know how long that will last.
The Rockets on the other hand love to fire away from the three point line. Howard should dominate his matchups and have a big game. He needs to demand the ball early and often. Harden will get his shots and hopefully not look bad on the defensive end.
Kobe will get up 20 shots in his first game but will struggle. This game will be out of hand by the 3rd quarter as the Rockets will outscore the Lakers by a large margin from beyond the arc. The Rockets will blow the Lakers out and rest their starters in the fourth quarter.