Boston Celtics (1-0) vs. Chicago Bulls (0-0)
8pm ET on TNT
If center Al Horford keeps playing the way he did in his Boston debut Wednesday night, the Celtics just might be hosting a playoff series this season. Horford scored just 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, but also had 5 boards, 6 assists and 4 blocks in just 27 minutes of the Celtics’ 122-117 win over the Brooklyn Nets. The game wasn’t as close as the score indicates, but it was a lot closer than it should’ve been, as the C’s had a 23-point lead with 8 minutes to play, but let the Nets go on a 30-10 run to close the gap to to 120-117 with 46 seconds on the clock, before a pair of Isaiah Thomas free throws closed out the scoring for the night. Thomas led all scorers with 25 points, adding 6 rebounds and 9 assists.
The Chicago Bulls finally parted ways with Derrick Rose, shipping him off to the Knicks, and handing the reins over to Jimmy Butler. And not a moment too soon. Rose had played in 39, 0, 10, 51 and 66 games over the past five seasons, had alienated fans with his concern for his family’s financial stability, and spent much of the summer in court. Butler, meanwhile, has emerged as one of the game’s best shooting guards, averaging 21-6-4 over the last two seasons. This looks to be a transitional year for the Bulls, who in addition to shipping out Rose, also said adieu to Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Mike Dunleavy, while adding Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Robin Lopez. There’s no telling how this team will mesh, with a starting five that features three new players, especially with all the ballhandlers in the mix.
Los Angeles Clippers (0-0) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (1-0)
*10:30pm ET on TNT
The perpetually disappointing Clippers tonight have a chance to avenge their most recent gut-punch, a 4-1 loss to the Trail Blazers in the first round of last year’s playoffs. It was an unceremonious end to an ugly season for the Clippers, one in which Blake Griffin missed three months of action, first due to a torn quadricep, and then, just as he was to return, a broken hand suffered when he punched the face of a team employee. Griffin then played poorly in limited minutes in the first four games against the Blazers before begging off for the last two games, citing his bad quad. Griffin is now 27, point guard Chris Paul is 31, and center DeAndre Jordan is 28, they’ve had five season together already without getting past the second round, the time is now for these guys to get it done.
The Trail Blazers started things off right on Tuesday, overcoming an 8-point 4th-quarter deficit to beat the Jazz 113-104, for their 16th consecutive home opening victory. Damian Lillard had a huge night, posting a 39-9-6 to lead his team in scoring, rebounds and assists, while backcourt mate CJ McCollum chipped in 25-2-3. These guys were among the best guard tandems in the NBA last year, and it’s pretty clear they intend to remain so. The Blazers finished last season with a strong kick, winning 7 of their last 9 to secure the 5-seed in the West, and then beat the Clippers 4-2 in the first round before falling to the Warriors. If this team can get a bit better on defense and stop sending opponents to the lien so much they’ll make some hay in the West.