What’s not to love about ESPN’s slate of games on Wednesday? The NBA’s two historic franchises, the Lakers and Celtics, will start off the doubleheader followed by two of the best teams in the West with the Timberwolves visiting the Warriors.
Former MVP? Check.
Former Rookie of the Year? Check.
Future MVP? Likely.
The most polarizing father in sports since Jesus Shuttleworth’s dad? Definitely.
Below is a deeper look at the matchups.
Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics
These are two of the best franchises in all of professional sports as their rivalry has lasted decades. The crazy part is just how competitive it’s been regardless of the era. In their last 150 meetings, the Lakers hold a 76-74 edge. The crazier part is in those meetings just one point separates the two iconic teams.
Boston was 30-11 at home last season and has followed that up with a 3-1 start in 2017-18. The Celtics average nearly 10 points more at home than on the road.
From a matchup standpoint, things are extremely intriguing. The Celtics are one of the slowest teams in the NBA in terms of pace, averaging just 96.2 possessions per 48 minutes (26th). The Lakers have the third-fastest pace in the league with more than 103 possessions per 48. Both teams have been solid defensively with the Celtics owning a league-best 96.9 defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) and the Lakers boasting the sixth-best mark.
One issue for the Lakers all season has been turnovers. The only team that gives the ball away more is the 76ers.
Los Angeles ranks just 27th in offensive rating. Going on the road as one of the least -efficient offenses in the NBA and seeing the league’s best defense for the first game of a four-game road trip could be problematic.
The Celtics should handle this one.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Golden State Warriors
This game could see ORACLE Arena blow a fuse on the scoreboard.
Golden State has the best offense in the NBA, ranking first in offensive rating, points, field goal percentage, three-point percentage and assists. It’s been more than three decades since we’ve seen a team rack up the kind of numbers the Warriors are.
Minnesota isn’t far behind with the fifth-best offensive rating in the NBA behind a top-10 field goal percentage, three-point percentage and free throw attempts.
For as good as both teams have been offensively, both have struggled mightily on the other end.
The Timberwolves allow 110 points per night, which ranks 25th in the NBA. Golden State is even worse, surrendering more than 111 per game. Even after accounting for pace, both teams still play atrocious defense.
So, who is more unguardable?
The Warriors have given up monster double-doubles to elite big men like DeMarcus Cousins (35-14), Anthony Davis (35-15), Marc Gasol (34-14) and LaMarcus Aldridge (24-10). Even Otto Porter managed a 29-10 fantasy gem against Golden State.
That suggests Karl-Anthony Towns could be in line for a monster night. He’s too skilled and athletic for any center that Steve Kerr could match up with him and he’s too big for Draymond Green or Kevin Durant to defend for extended periods of time.
The Timberwolves will have trouble at several positions.
It is no secret that Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins are defensive liabilities. Having them chase around Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson won’t be the easiest assignment ever. Curry averaged 25.3 points against Minnesota last season, while Thompson put up 31 a night in four games against the Wolves.
Then there’s the issue of defending Durant.
Tobias Harris, Dion Waiters, Russell Westbrook and Victor Oladipo have already exploded for big nights against the Wolves.
Golden State has won nine of the 11 meetings since Kerr took over in 2014. The Warriors are also 116-11 at home under Kerr. It’s impossible to pick against them at this point.