It was another busy week in the NBA. Here are the games we highlighted that were played from January 12th – 18th. The Cleveland Cavaliers continued to struggle. In their game against the Suns, they lost, as we predicted, 107-100. The Cavs, who are now third in the NBA Central Division, have lost 7 of their last 10. The Washington Wizards beat Chicago 105-99. When the Thunder met the Rockets last week we thought it would be too close to call. It was not, as Houston managed a fairly easy 112- 101 win.
The Hawks of Atlanta are proving to be a formidable opponent. Along with beating the Raptors easily, 110-89, they have put together a 12-game winning streak. Finally, last week the Golden State Warriors triumphed over the Rockets for a third straight time this season, blowing them out 131-106. As the season has continued, both the Warriors and the Hawks have looked to be the real thing. Here are five of the more important and interesting games in the NBA that will be played this week.
Dallas Mavericks at Memphis Grizzlies (January 19th)
At the start of the week, Southwest Division foes Dallas and Memphis meet. With Memphis being on top of the division, less than a game separates these two clubs. Dallas played the Grizzlies once before and lost 114-105. The Mavs can score a lot of points, but they have a tough time defending. Memphis is average in scoring but ranked 8th in defense and 10th in assists. For Dallas, the game will depend on the accuracy SG Monta Ellis (20.2 PPG) and the play in the paint by center Tyson Chandler (12.2 RPG). For Memphis, center Marc Gasol (19.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG) and power forward Zach Randolph (16.6 PPG, 11.8 RPG) will be deciding factors. The Grizzlies should be good in this one.
Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers (January 19th)
In the Central Division, the Cavs will host the Bulls. Cleveland is 5.5 games out of first place. This is a big game between two division rivals. Cleveland is certainly the underdog, as they continue to play like an average or below-average NBA team. Chicago can grab rebounds in the paint, and they are effective at scoring. Their defense is about average. This should be a win for the Bulls who have the inside-outside combo of PF Pau Gasol (18.9 PPG, 11.4 RPG) and SG Jimmy Butler (20.6 PPG).
Oklahoma City Thunder at Washington Wizards (January 21st)
Two second-place teams will battle in this contest, as the Northwest Division Thunder visits the Southeast Division Wizards. Oklahoma City is a very fine scoring and rebounding club, while Washington offers a premium defense and great passing chops. The inside game featuring PF Kevin Durant (25.6 PPG) and the outside accuracy of PG Russell Westbrook (25.4 PPG) will keep the Thunder in the game, while the Wizards will be dependent upon PG John Wall (17.1 PPG, 10.0 APG, 2.1 SPG) and his shooting, playmaking, and defensive talents.
Toronto Raptors at Memphis Grizzlies (January 21st)
The Atlantic Division leading Raptors travel to Memphis to fight it out with the Southwest Division leading Grizzlies. Toronto can score, as they are averaging just over 107 PPG, but they are weak on D. Memphis shows strength on defense, but they have a difficult time putting a lot of points on the board. To win, the Raptors have to hit from the outside, and that means they will need points from their top producers, PG Kyle Lowry (20.1 PPG) and SG DeMar DeRozan (19.7 PPG). The Grizzlies defense will be key. Toronto can win this game.
Brooklyn Nets at L.A. Clippers (January 22nd)
Even though they have a losing record, the Nets are the second-best team in the NBA’s Atlantic Division, trailing the Raptors by 10 games. The Clippers, who are second in the Pacific Division behind the Warriors, are a good 13 games above the 500-mark and about six games out of first. Los Angeles can move the ball around and score with ease, while the Nets bring a sound defense to the court. Nets’ PG Deron Williams (40% FG%, 39% 3PT%) is out, and that can be costly. The Clippers should see good production from Blake Griffin (23.0 PPG) in the frontcourt and PG Chris Paul (17.8 PPG, 9.7 APG). You have to like L.A. in this game, but if Brooklyn can get a win while on the West Coast against a quality team like the Clippers that will say something abut their ability to be competitive this season.
Upcoming Games Starting January 26th
In our next NBA preview, we will consider some of the most exciting and important games of the week. We will look at two games on January 27th. The first will be Memphis at Dallas and the second will feature Chicago at Golden State. The following night conference rivals Dallas and Houston meet in a major matchup. On Friday, January 30th, the first-place, Northwest Division Portland Trail Blazers visit the first-place Southeast Division Atlanta Hawks. We’ll look at this game, which should be a hard-fought.