This past week the NBA offered some surprises and disappointments. One surprise was the Washington Wizards one-point win over the Houston Rockets. One disappointment, at least for those in Cleveland, was the drubbing the Cavaliers took at the hands of the Mavericks. The 109 to 90 final was due, in part, to the fact that LeBron James did not play, as he was suffering from back and leg problems. He’ll be out for awhile.
Also last week, the Thunder handled the Suns and the Nuggets beat the Grizzlies. The Raptors played the Trail Blazers and did not do well against Portland; they lost that road game 102-97 in OT. There are some very big games this week, starting on Monday.
Houston Rockets at Chicago Bulls (Monday, January 5th)
Houston plays Chicago in what should be a very good game. Losing PF Terrence Jones early in the season has not helped the Rockets. Still, they are a quality team that includes center Dwight Howard (18.0 PPG, 11.3 RPG) and shooting guard James Harden (27.2 PPG, 6.6 APG). There’s a lot on these two guy’s shoulders night after night.
Chicago’s high scoring offense will have to contend with what is one of the best defenses in the NBA. The Bulls Jimmy Butler (21.9 PPG), Pau Gasol (18.0 PPG), and Derrick Rose (17.2 PPG) can all score, but can they do so consistently versus the tough Houston D? The Rockets may rock the Bulls Monday night.
Memphis Grizzlies at Atlanta Hawks (Wednesday, January 7th)
Statistically, Memphis is, overall, a fairly average team, while the Atlanta Hawks are better than average. However, the Grizzlies offer a fine defense that rivals the Hawks sound D, and they are just about equal to Atlanta on offense. Atlanta possesses better ball movement, while Memphis is a notch more efficient as a rebounding club. Will the Hawks home court be the difference-maker, or will it be Memphis center Marc Gasol (20.0 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.7 BPG)? The Grizzlies look to dominate in the frontcourt and force a win in Atlanta.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Friday, January 9th)
The Cavs visit what may be the best team in the league, Golden State, and they will not have LeBron James. How does a club that’s a tad better than average with James make it a contest against a team that is second in scoring, seventh in rebounding, first in assists, and tenth in points allowed? Cleveland, at present, has no inside game, and, at best, an average defense. There’s no one who can make up for LeBron’s 25 PPG. Look for Warrior PG Stephen Curry (23.1 PPG, 7.8 APG, 5.0 RPG, 2.1 SPG) to control this game from start to finish.
Dallas Mavericks at the L.A. Clippers (Saturday, January 10th)
One thing about the Mavs is they can score, and that means that they always have a chance to be in the game. Dallas is the top scoring team in the league. Leading the charge is shooting guard Monta Ellis (20.7 PPG). Four of the team’s top players are hitting 47% from the court, and one, center Tyson Chandler, is good 67% of the time. The addition of PG Rajon Rhondo, formerly of Boston, has given Dallas an added edge.
The Clippers are fifth in the NBA in scoring and fifth in assists. They match up well in these areas against the Mavs. But their D and rebounding isn’t quite up to the same standards as their opponent. Still, the triad of PF Blake Griffin (22.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG), center DeAndre Jordan (13.6 RPG, 2.0 BPG), and PG Chris Paul (17.9 PPG, 9.5 APG, 2.1 SPG) will make a game of it. This one could be tighter than one might think. Give the edge to Dallas.
Washington Wizards at Atlanta Hawks (Sunday, January 11th)
This is a major divisional matchup, as the Southeast Division leading Hawks host the second-place Wizards. Washington has a tough defense but a less than average offense. They require more points from everyone, and SG Bradley Beal (15.7 PPG) needs to be more accurate from the field. A few ticks up on his 43% shooting percentage could make a big difference. However, a point to remember- Beal’s three-point shot is one of the best in the NBA, finding net 47% of the time. That can be a game breaker.
The Wizards have been struggling as of late, while the Hawks have been on a roll. Atlanta’s four top scorers are good from the court 48 to 53 percent of the time. Plus, they are a very tough defensive team. SG Kyle Korver is an explosive outside threat, sinking 51% of his threes, while hitting 49% of his shots from the field. Atlanta looks solid in this very close battle.
Upcoming the Week Starting January 12th
Next week, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be tested when they visit the Phoenix Suns (January 13th), while the Washington Wizards trip to play the Chicago Bulls (January 14th) will be worth watching. On Friday, January 15th, the Oklahoma City Thunder will meet the Houston Rockets in what should be an exciting game. Then, Golden State visits Houston on January 17th in another major matchup. We will preview those four games and at least one more next week.