Tonight is the night: The NBA is back in business. The moment that we’ve all been waiting for is finally here. We’re seeing the real deal tonight — no longer are we stuck in preseason mode or Summer League.
For some of us, this is like Christmas in October. I’ve been waiting for this day since June and I’m sure that many of you have had the same feeling, too.
Today, the NBA will open with a slate of three games and it’s the perfect time to through each game and tell you what the X-factor is for each team to bring home the victory on Opening Night.
WASHINGTON VS. CLEVELAND
The Washington Wizards will travel to Cleveland tonight to take on Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. This game was supposed to be a marquee matchup where two of the brightest young players in the NBA in John Wall and Irving face off. It turns out that only one of these young point guards will be playing tonight with Wall is out for about four more weeks as he takes precautionary measures with stress on his patellar tendon.
This isn’t going to be an easy game for the Wizards to pull out, but if they’re going to do it they’ll need Bradley Beal to be their X-factor tonight. Beal has impressed throughout the summer with his capabilities on the ball and his ability to pass, as well, in his limited time since he was drafted in June.
Many people have likened him to a player of James Harden’s caliber instead of Ray Allen — the pure shooter-type who many thought he’d resemble most when he came into the draft. He’s shown that he has the ability to shoot the ball, but he isn’t a one-trick pony.
Beal has to be able to create off of the dribble for his teammates and himself in order to win. Without a very strong point guard presence, the Wizards will need him to step up. A.J Price can’t be trusted here.
For the Cavaliers to win this game, they’ll need someone to pick up the scoring slack along with Irving. The Wizards can’t be allowed to key their defense in on the Cavaliers star point guard. If they do, then they’ll struggle to win this game.
Without Nene and Wall on the floor tonight, the Wizards will surely struggle to put points on the board. The Cavaliers will need Dion Waiters to step up and provide a scoring punch as their X-factor. The purpose behind drafting Waiters was to provide the Cavaliers with extra scoring. Throughout the preseason and summer he struggled shooting from the field, but he did show flashes of why they picked him. Doing that tonight will surely be huge in the Cavaliers winning.
Prediction: Cleveland wins this game tonight. Without Wall, the Wizards are lacking an element of speed and will play poorly in transition. Irving will have 19 points and 7 assists in a 99-87 win over Washington.
BOSTON VS. MIAMI
The next game is the much-anticipated Miami vs. Boston. The Celtics will travel to Miami to take on the defending champions just after Miami earns its title rings in a pre-game ceremony. It’s bitter for the Celtics, who lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Celtics were a team who many people had given up on because of their age and their slow start. They made a move to put Kevin Garnett at center and got rolling through the playoffs until the Heat put Boston away in seven games; a series that was just as close as it sounded. The Celtics feel like they should’ve won that game seven.Now they’ll have a change to avenge their loss tonight. Oh, not to mention getting back at Ray Allen for leaving their team for Miami. This game should be, well, awesome.
To win this game, the Boston Celtics will need to take away every opportunity the Heat have to get out into transition. To do that, they’ll need to destroy Miami on the glass tonight. Garnett will be their X-factor. If he can’t grab more than 9-11 rebounds tonight, Boston will lose this game.
Last season Miami showed that in transition it’s almost a guaranteed bucket every time. Rebounding on both ends of the floor will slow those opportunities down. The Celtics won’t need to worry about turning the ball over with Rajon Rondo at the point. He takes care of the ball.
For Miami, they’ll need to space the floor so that Boston isn’t able to stack the paint. That’s where Miami makes its money. Once they get inside their points are easy to come by. They’ve got the two best finishers in the NBA on the wings.
Chris Bosh will be the Miami Heat’s X-factor tonight. He has to be able to stretch whatever big is guarding him out to at least 18 feet out of the paint. The Heat need a lot of space on offense to really have an effect. Penetration is key and with a big in the paint that’s going to hamper it.
Prediction: I think Miami is going to take this game, but it will be a close one. LeBron James will finish with 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists as he leads the Heat to victory in a 95-88 win over Boston.
DALLAS VS. LAKERS
In this game, we’ll get to see the Lakers with all of their new toys take on a weak Mavericks team that doesn’t have their star player in Dirk Nowitzki.
With Dirk out because of knee surgery, the Mavericks will struggle to score. They’re X-factor is going to have to be the backcourt tandem of O.J Mayo and Darren Collison. Those two together will have to provide a scoring punch for the Mavericks as their best offensive players. Collison will have to do his best to get everyone involved in the game and score from every area of the floor to keep the Lakers off balance.
Mayo is going to need to be the scoring punch that Vince Carter hasn’t been able to be and that Jason Terry once was for Dallas. Without a true scoring option, Mayo has to step up and play like he is supposed to.
In the Lakers’ first game of the season, one of their new stars is going to be their X-factor. Steve Nash is going to determine how this game goes for the Lakers. Nash is going to have to make this offense flow because of the lack of chemistry between the new pieces they have as they current stand.
If Nash can play a good game, he’ll bring everyone together as a cohesive unit. A good total of nine assists should enough to get everyone gelling together.
Prediction: The Lakers will win this game easily as Howard goes for 22 points and 15 rebounds in a 105-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Happy opening day everyone. May your eyes stay glued to the game.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.