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Battle of Bigs and Battle of Los Angeles headline TNT’s first Thursday night slate

Embiid’s Sixers visit Giannis’ Bucks while Kawhi Leonard returns to battle his cross-corridor rivals in Los Angeles

Philadelphia 76ers v Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid are facing off to kick off the Bucks’ 2022-23 season.
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers (0-1) play their second TNT game of the week and try to lick their wounds after the Boston Celtics spanked them and their new offseason additions in the season opener, 126-117. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Bucks open their season one year removed from an NBA title, running back essentially the same team as last year - but without the injured Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton for the first few weeks.

In the second game, it’s a Battle of Los Angeles at the Crypto Dot Com Center. The Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers: Two teams separated by a locker room wall, and some dramatically different histories of success. Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis will compete for rebounds and who can stay off the injured list, while Paul George and LeBron James renew their rivalry from the Pacers-Heat days. The Lakers lost handily to the Warriors Tuesday night, Russell Westbrook is still mad about coming off the bench in a preseason game, and Patrick Beverley gets very pumped up to beat the Clippers.

Milwaukee and Philadelphia are two perennial Eastern Conference contenders who somehow haven’t met in the playoffs since the 2001 Conference Finals. Last year, the Celtics stopped the Bucks in round two, while Miami sent Philly home. We’ve had to settle for regular season matchups between perennial MVP contenders Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid instead. Last year, the Bucks won two out of three, all close games, with the final one decided when Giannis blocked Embiid’s putback at the buzzer.

Both teams will be adjusting to their roster changes. The Bucks will have to lean on Wesley Matthews, Jordan Nwora, and tripmaster Grayson Allen for wing minutes until their small forward - and backup small forward - return.The Sixers are working in new power forward and Giannis stopper P.J. Tucker, along with three new rotation players in De’Anthony Melton, Danuel House, Jr., and Montrezl Harrell. The only thing Giannis hates more than trying to score on Tucker is when Tucker manages to get Giannis’ own signature shoes before him.

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DraftKings Odds

Milwaukee is favored by four points over Philly (All odds via DraftKings). The Over/Under is 225, for an implied final score of Milwaukee 114.5, Philadelphia 110.5. Maybe consider the half points a proxy for technical fouls - there will be some technical fouls in this one.

I have no idea to expect from these teams, except for some unusual faith in the 76ers’ Tobias Harris going OVER 14.5 points (-115). Harris averages 17.1 points per game against the Bucks in his career. Last year he scored 19 points in the first matchup with Milwaukee, and 22 in the second. Plus, Milwaukee’s top two small forwards are out. Harris does have to compete with Embiid, James Harden, and Tyrese Maxey for touches, but they have to face better defenders than he does. Plus, the Bucks don’t have anyone who can guard him like Bo Cruz can!

At (+170), I love the price on Brook Lopez going OVER on 1.5 threes, as Splash Mountain should get plenty of looks from the outside. In fact, I’ll even take the Brook Lopez double-double bet, at (+2200). That’s value, baby. The Cavaliers aren’t playing, so Brook will definitely try to rub it in his twin brother Robin’s face on national TV. And Robin will pretend to be watching Paddington instead.

Finally, I like going OVER 2.5 for Joel Embiid’s turnovers (-175), because he’s playing against Giannis and Jrue Holiday, and because he said he needed to work on his turnovers after the game. The internet isn’t going to forget his quote after he turns it over five times on TNT.

Meanwhile the Clippers are favored by 5.5 points over the Lakers, with an Over/Under of 223.5, an implied final score of Clippers 114.5, Lakers 109. Shockingly, the public is all-in on the Clippers, perhaps because they watched the Lakers on Tuesday night, with 80% of the bets and 98% of the money wagered on the Board Man’s crew. I’m with the public here, as I could easily see the game getting out of hand early, even with LeBron and AD fighting for the honor of their city. I also think this one is going OVER (-110), because the Lakers were very committed to fast breaks Tuesday, and very uncommitted to perimeter defense.

As for player props, they’re limited, simply because the sportsbooks can’t tell how much Kawhi Leonard, John Wall, or Russell Westbrook will play. That’s why I’m recommending a tried and true OVER 29.5 points for LeBron James (+100). When push comes to shove, this Lakers team might be awful, but King James still has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record in his sights.

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