NBA Opening Night: Celtics vs Cavaliers, Rockets vs Warriors Predictions

So the NBA season with the predictable ending is about to start. The Boston Celtics with Kyrie Irving are coming to play the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James on opening night, followed by the Houston Rockets, with the Chris Paul-James Harden tandem making its debut, visiting the defending NBA champions and basically unchanged Golden State Warriors.

Celtics vs Cavaliers

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving

All eyes will be on the interactions between James and Irving in this game. Kyrie will be making his debut for the Celtics after 6 seasons with the Cavaliers, that included three NBA finals and one title, but only once James arrived at the team did Irving taste playoffs basketball. Irving hasn’t said anything explicit, but from his behavior before the trade and his choice words after, he fell out of love with James and his role on the team. LeBron keeps saying that he has nothing but love for Irving, but he keeps referring to him as ‘kid’, clearly trying to get to him.

There’s more to this game than James (who isn’t 100%, carrying a knock, like Kevin Love) and Irving. The Cavaliers added Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, two Chicago natives, with a different goal in mind for this season. Wade just wants to have fun and hopefully make a run for a ring next to his old teammate. Rose wants to get his career back on the right track, and prove he has a place in this league as a meaningful player on a winning team. Love wants to show that the Cavaliers constantly trying to trade him is a mistake. Jae Crowder, arriving from Boston, probably has a thing or two to prove.

The Celtics, who lost in five games to the Cavaliers in last season’s conference finals despite home court advantage, know that the regular season and the #1 seed isn’t as important as they thought. They hope that with Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, a contract-year Marcus Smart and exciting rookie Jayson Tatum, they can finally change the outlook of the Eastern conference.

Rockets vs Warriors

James Harden, Kevin Durant

There’s a paradox regarding the Dubs, who do have Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and newcomer Omri Casspi listed as day-to-day. They’re playing terrific, beautiful basketball. But they’ve been so successful the last 3 years, along with moves, behavior and a perception that’s easy for NBA neutrals to hate, that it’s hard to feel excited about another season in which they’re huge favorites to win it all coming out of the gate.

The Houston Rockets aren’t as good, but they’re a lot more interesting. James Harden ran the Mike D’Antoni system last season, leading to a terrific season for him and the team, stopped in the conference semifinals. The big question is what will change with Chris Paul coming in to help, getting away from the stuck Los Angeles Clippers. Can a system that relies on one ball-dominant player to run the show function with two?

Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant co-existing on the same side means that neither of them will win the MVP, but they seem just fine with that. Steve Kerr’s ability to manage the egos, ambitions and frustrations, some of them coming from the direction of Draymond Green, makes this freakishly talented team so scary. And the worst thing? They’re not going anywhere with their key players locked up for quite some time.