This week in the NBA you’ll find some of the best clubs going up against one another. This is a week where numerous first and second place teams will do battle. These matchups are especially interesting in that each club has played about 20 games, which means they have completed close to one-quarter of the regular season, and those initial games tend to be a decent indicator of how good a team really is.
As we head into the second quarter of the 2014-2015 NBA season, we can start to get a sense of how good the apparently premium teams are as they meet one another. Of course, one injury to a player can be the difference between a 60-win and 50-win season and, once into the playoffs, it can be a major difference-maker as far as advancing to the next round is concerned.
Phoenix at L.A. Clippers (Monday, Dec. 8th)
This game features two teams that are neck-and-neck in the Pacific Division, fighting for first, second, or third. Both teams are in the double-digit win category and they are in what is the most competitive division in the NBA. The Suns have always been one of those teams that focuses on offense, often going into a game acknowledging that the other club will score a lot of points, but that they will score a lot more.
Phoenix is 5th in scoring, averaging 105.2 PPG, and they are 25th in points allowed at 103.1 PPG. On the other side of the court, the Clippers are averaging 106.4 PPG (4th), but they are only allowing 98.5 PPG (10th). Those simple stats may be the difference in this game, especially with the Clippers at home. In their first game with the Suns this season, L.A. won 120- 107. PF Blake Griffin (22.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG) and PG Chris Paul (17.9 PPG, 9.8 APG) are the consistent performers and workhorses on the Clippers. Both are shooting over 50% from the floor.
The Suns, despite their ability to put points on the board, have less to offer. SG Goran Dragic (16.0 PPG) leads the club in points per game, while point man Eric Bledsoe (15.8 PPG), who is second in shooting, leads the team in assists with 5.7 per game. Look for the Suns to struggle against what is a superior Clipper club.
Dallas at Memphis (Tuesday, Dec. 9th)
The Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, who each have at least 15 wins, are two clubs that are also neck and neck, as both are in the Southwest Division. This is a major contest, featuring the top-scoring club in the NBA, the Mavs who are averaging 110.0 PPG, against the top defensive team, the Grizzlies who are allowing an average of 93.8 PPG. For the record, Dallas is giving up 102.5 PPG, while Memphis is scoring 100.2 PPG. This is the first meeting between the two clubs.
PF Zach Randolph (11.2 RPG) and center Marc Gasol (8.2 RPG, 1.6 BPG) will be big factors in a Memphis win, while output from SG Monta Ellis (21.3 PPG) and PF Dirk Nowitzki (19.1 PPG) will be essential in a Dallas victory. Memphis has a good chance at taking this one.
Houston at Golden State (Wednesday, Dec 10th)
The Houston Rockets are tops in the Southwest Division while the Golden State Warriors are leading the Pacific Division. Despite the fact that these are two division leading clubs, these teams do not matchup evenly. In their first meeting this year, the Warriors won 98-87. This may be a repeat of that contest.
While the Rockets offer one the best defenses around, allowing teams to score an average of 94.1 PPG (3rd), they are 19th in scoring, putting an average of 98.9 PPG on the board. The Warriors are third in scoring (107.1) and rebounds (45.6), first in assists (26.1) and seventh in points allowed (96.2).
For the Rockets, keys are SG James Harden (25.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.9 SPG) and center Dwight Howard (18.8 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 2.3 BPG). State’s backcourt, which is comprised of PG Stephen Curry and SG Klay Thompson, is averaging 44 points, 9 rebounds, 11 assists and 3 steals per game. While in the frontcourt center Andre Bogut (9.5 RPG, 2.21 SPG) controls the paint. Golden State is 7-1 at home.
Portland at Chicago (Friday, Dec. 12th)
The Portland Trail Blazers, the team that leads the Northwest Division, visits the Central Division leading Chicago Bulls. The Bulls have struggled at home, going 2-5, while Portland is 5-2 on the road. Portland pwer forward LaMarcus Aldridge (22.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG) will be a big factor in this game. His matchup against Chicago PF Pau Gasol (20.1 PPG, 11.9 RPG) could be the difference in this game.
Chicago at Atlanta (Sunday, Dec. 14th)
After playing Portland at home, the Bulls then venture to Atlanta to play the Hawks. The Hawks are near the top of the Southeast Division. They welcome what is perhaps the best road team in the league. Atlanta is a decent scoring team, but their defense can break down. Look for the Bulls to handle the Hawks in this one.
Next Week in the NBA
Next week games that look to have an impact on standings include Golden State at Memphis (Tuesday, December 16th), San Antonio at Dallas (Saturday, December 13th), and Memphis at Cleveland (Sunday, December 21st). We’ll have more on these and other games in our next weekly 2014 NBA Preview.