NBA Returns To London For Eighth Time
For the eighth time in league history, the NBA will make a regular-season stop in London.
Two teams from the Eastern Conference tip off on Thursday at the O2 Arena in the fourth game at that state-of-the-art complex, which is located on the Greenwich Peninsula in southeast London.
Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics take on Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers in the first game in England since October 2013.
The Celtics are favored by three points (odds provided by bovada.lv).
The matchup will mark the Celtics’ second game in the capital. The 17-time NBA champions played a preseason game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2007.
The Sixers will also be playing their second contest in the U.K. and first in London. The three-time league champs previously played a preseason game in Manchester against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2013.
Both teams come into this matchup on winning streaks. The Celtics (33-10) have won six straight and lead the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Only the defending champion Golden State Warriors (33-9) have a better record in the league. The Celtics are 7-1 against teams within their division and 21-8 against opponents from the East.
The Sixers (19-19) have won four straight and sit third in the Atlantic. One of the reasons for their .500 record is their poor play (1-5) against division rivals. They are 8-9 against conference opponents.
This is the third time these two rivals have met this season. The Celtics have won the first two — 102-92 on Oct. 20 at Philadelphia and 108-97 on Nov. 30 at TD Garden in Boston. They play for the final time this season a week after this game on Jan. 18 in Boston.
The Celtics finished first in the Atlantic Division last year at 53-29. They were eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference final. The 76ers were 28-54 last year, which placed them in fourth in their division. They have not made the playoffs since the 2011-12 season.
Irving is the leading scorer for Boston. In fact, he’s 12th in the league at 24.1 points per game. The Celtics have four other players that average double-digits in every game in Jaylen Brown (14.1), Jayson Tatum (13.9), Al Holford (13.4) and Marcus Morris (11.0). Holford is the leading rebounder with almost eight boards a game.
Embiid is the leading scorer for Philadelphia. The trash-talking center from Cameroon is 13th in the league with 23.8 points per game. He’s also the leading rebounder at 10.9. Four other scorers average double-digits for the 76ers — JJ Redick (17.3), high-flying rookie Ben Simmons (16.9), Robert Covington (13.9) and Dario Saric (13.6).
The NBA has been making a push to expand its global reach by playing overseas games for decades. These two red-hot teams should add to that excitement.
VGB’s pick — Boston (-3), Under (209)
VGB’s Top 10 NBA Teams
(Current odds to win the NBA Finals listed after team record. Odds provided by bovada.lv.)
- Golden State (33-9) -200 — Steph Curry is back, draining 10 threes in return.
- Boston (33-10) +800 — Celtics allow opposition fewest points per game.
- Cleveland (26-14) +575 — Cavaliers lead Central, 19-8 in conference play.
- Houston (29-11) +750 — Harden league’s leading scorer at 32.3 points a game.
- Toronto (28-11) +3300 — Raptors have fantastic record at home (14-2).
- San Antonio (28-14) +1200 — Best home record in NBA, but under .500 on road.
- Minnesota (27-16) +7500 — T’wolves 8-1 within division, 22-6 in conference.
- Miami (24-17) +25000 — Heat have better record on road than in home arena.
- Washington (23-18) +6600 — Wizards tied for lead in Southeast, 6-4 in last 10.
- Oklahoma City (22-20) +1800 — Thunder win four of first 11 games, 18-14 since.