On any given night, the NBA can surprise you. The season’s not even a week old and we’ve already seen a Charlotte Bobcats victory! That being said, here’s a look at the week ahead, which games you should watch, the keys to victory, and a quick prediction on the outcome.
Sunday, November 4th - DETROIT PISTONS (0-2) VS LOS ANGELES LAKERS (0-3)
It’s a rematch of the NBA Finals! Alright, slight exaggeration, as that was nine seasons ago and only Kobe Bryant and Tayshaun Prince remain from those rosters. However, that shouldn’t stop you from catching this game. With the Lakers going through some growing pains running the Princeton offense and Steve Nash (will be inactive)and Kobe Bryant both battling injuries, the Pistons couldn’t have visited L.A. at a better time. As well, the Detroit front court of Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe could give Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol fits at both ends of the floor. This will be a key matchup because if Howard gets in foul trouble, the Pistons may pull off the upset. For the Lakers, all the talk about their offense has masked how poorly they have played defensively, already allowing 106.7 points a game (4th worst in the NBA). They need to keep the Pistons under 90 to not only achieve victory, but to gain some much needed confidence moving forward.
FINAL PREDICTION: Lakers 93, Pistons 87
Monday, November 5th – CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1-2) vs LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (2-1)
18 months ago, you would have chuckled at the idea of this game being worth watching. Now it’s a showcase of two of the NBA’s best point guards going head-to-head. It’s the future (Kyrie Irving) vs. the present (Chris Paul). Pop the popcorn, grab a cold one, park your butt on the couch, and enjoy the show!
For the Cavaliers to win, Irving needs a triple-double, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao need to outplay Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, and LeBron James would have to return. Am I being dramatic? In short, I clearly don’t like the Cavaliers chances. They’ve never been an overly productive road team, and I don’t expect that to change on Monday.
FINAL PREDICTION: Clippers 108, Cavaliers 90
Tuesday, November 6th – DENVER NUGGETS (0-3) vs DETROIT PISTONS (0-2)
Detroit has two must-watch games for the week? I’ll be damned. Last season, in their only meeting, the Pistons and Nuggets played arguably one of the best games of the year. Ben Gordon tied an NBA record with nine 3-pointers without a miss. His 45 points should have been enough for the victory. However, Javale McGee, in his first game with Denver, tipped in an Arron Afflalo missed free throw with five seconds remaining to cap a thrilling 116-115 victory. Fast forward to today – Gordon’s in Charlotte and Afflalo’s in Orlando. These teams look different, but nobody would’ve predicted how entertaining last year’s game was, so who’s to say a repeat isn’t in store?
For Detroit to sneak out a victory, Brandon Knight needs to match Ty Lawson shot for shot and assist for assist. Knight and Rodney Stuckey were a combined -45 over their first two games (not surprisingly, a pair of losses). The Nuggets need to be the high-octane offense we saw on Saturday, as opposed to the stagnant, boring team we saw in their first two games.
FINAL PREDICTION: Nuggets 109, Pistons 95
Wednesday, November 7th- BROOKLYN NETS (1-0) vs MIAMI HEAT (2-1)
This is a great early season test for both squads and quite possibly a preview of things to come in this years playoffs. It’ll be interesting to watch the Deron Williams-Joe Johnson duo battle Dwayne Wade-Mario Chalmers in the back court. Meanwhile, the Nets will have problems on defense, because the projected starting lineups will create mismatches. Assuming Brook Lopez guards Bosh, then what happens with Kris Humphries? Guarding LeBron James or Shane Battier will likely take him out of the key and out of position for a rebound. That doesn’t even take into account the quickness and agility advantage James will have on both ends of the court. Kris isn’t the guy to guard a player like Lebron.
For the Nets to pull off the upset, Deron & JJ need to combine for at least 50 points and 12 assists. In fact, one of them needs to go off for 40. A strong offense to combat Miami’s will be key. The Heat were built to handle a team like Brooklyn’s – negate their big men by playing small.
FINAL PREDICTION: Heat 112, Nets 96
Thursday, November 8th- LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (2-1) vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (2-1)
Rookie of the Year favourite (it’s never too early to make this claim, especially when (we predicted it!) Damian Lillard does battle with CP3 in this matchup of 2-1 teams (thus far). Two of the best power forwards in the NBA, LaMarcus Aldridge and Blake Griffin, will also pair up. These Big 12 alumni will be tied to the hip for a long time, whether it’s in All-Star games or eventual playoff games.
For the Clippers, they need to keep the game close until the fourth, where Paul can give a lesson to Lillard on how to close out a game on the professional level. Damian has exceeded expectations thus far. Let’s see how he does against arguably the best player running the point today.
FINAL PREDICTION: Clippers 98, Trail Blazers 95
Friday, November 9th- HOUSTON ROCKETS (2-1) vs MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (1-1)
The NBA’s leading scorer James Harden meets the NBA’s leading defender-that-will-piss-you-off-and-make-you-feel-like-the-basket-is-the-size-of-a-thimble, Tony Allen. By halftime of their first game of the season, the Rockets became an instant League Pass team to watch. Don’t let the main event distract you from a formidable sideshow – Omer Asik banging the boards against Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph.
For the Rockets to win, Harden will have to pick-and-roll his way away from Allen, and rack up some solid numbers (30 points & 8 assists). For the Grizzlies, they’ll need to feed off their amazing home crowd and play the bruising defense they’re capable of displaying.
FINAL PREDICTION: Grizzlies 94, Rockets 77
Saturday, November 10th- BOSTON CELTICS (0-2) vs MILWAUKEE BUCKS (2-0)
The Celtics will look to avenge a home loss earlier this week to Milwaukee.
Do you think Rajon Rondo will allow Brandon Jennings to go off for 21 points, 13 assists, and 6 steals again? Do you really expect three different Bucks (Ekpe Udoh, Beno Udrih, and Larry Sanders) to come off the bench and each score in double figures again? How many of you believe that Mike Dunleavy will be +10, while Paul Pierce is -9 for a second consecutive meeting?? While I don’t expect any of that to happen, there’s a reason why these games are played.
For the Bucks to win, they won’t need all the above to occur, but they will need their dynamic duo of Jennings and Monta Ellis to combine for 45, while their stable of shot-blockers (Udoh, Sanders, Samuel Dalembert) wreak havoc on Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass. For the Celtics, Rondo will need to find Pierce more, as Pierce was not the leader in FG attempts, as he should be.
FINAL PREDICTION: Boston 100, Bucks 90
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