Last season, a red-hot Jeremy Lin rode into South Beach and was thoroughly beat down. In last year’s Finals, James Harden rode into Miami and was thoroughly shut down. I’m sure both young studs are looking to exact some revenge as members of the Rockets.
Keys to victory: Miami has shown a penchant for giving up a lot of points (107 in win over Boston; 116 in win over Denver; 104 in loss to New York), while the Houston Rockets have had a couple of offensive outbursts (105 in win over Detroit; 109 in win over Atlanta). To pull off the upset, Lin and Harden will need to penetrate the paint and find open shooters. This worked wonderfully for the Knicks, who drained 16 3-pointers to beat the Heat in their season opener. For Miami, their defensive rotation needs to be on point. If they double Lin or Harden, the help defender should be ready and possibly jump the passing lane to cause a turnover. Taking that dynamic duo out of the offense will be key, as the Rockets have few weapons outside of those two.
Prediction: 108-89 for Miami
Two weeks ago, if I were to tell you that one of these teams were a game below .500, while the other was five games above, would this have been your guess? The Spurs had an opening schedule that involved the Clippers, Thunder, and Jazz (who they beat). Meanwhile, the Lakers had games against the Pistons, a Dirk-less Mavericks, and the Jazz (who defeated them). Based on that fact alone, the answer should have been obvious.
Keys to victory: With the Princeton offense being phased out, the Lakers will need to go back to the basics, whether that’s letting Kobe run the show (until Nash returns), or having Dwight Howard bully his way to 15+ free throws against San Antonio’s bigs. The Spurs will need Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili to run wild on the Lakers’ surprisingly weak D and exploit whomever is running the point.
Prediction: 108-100 for San Antonio
Wednesday, November 14 – Memphis Grizzlies (5-1) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2)
While the Heat-Clippers game is a must-see for obvious reasons (Finals preview; CP3 & Griffin/Jordan alley-oops, Bosh/Wade/LBJ), the Grizzlies-Thunder game isn’t a bad prelude. Last season, these two were destined to meet in the West Finals. The Grizz were a fourth quarter collapse away from getting past the Clippers and face the Spurs, who they eliminated from the previous season’s playoffs.
Keys to victory: The front court matchup of Gasol/Randolph vs. Ibaka/Perkins will be a no-holds-barred battle royal down low. If Tony Allen can keep Kevin Durant under 25 points and below 50% FG, then Memphis has a great chance to sneak out a victory. For the Thunder, Russell Westbrook will need to limit his turnovers against one of the league’s steals leaders in Mike Conley Jr, and also use his ability to penetrate to rack up at least eight assists and get his teammates decent looks at the basket.
Prediction: 93-89 for Oklahoma City
The two teams with the best starts in their respective conferences face off in the heart of Texas! What you are about to witness is a clinic in ball movement and spacing. The Spurs are pinning their future on Kawhi Leonard’s shoulders and he’ll get a chance to prove his worth as he matches up with Carmelo Anthony. Tony Parker and Jason Kidd will renew old rivalries. Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw face the wall that is the Knicks front court (Tyson Chandler, Marcus Camby, Rasheed Wallace). Quite a sight to see considering I have yet to mention the always-dangerous Manu Ginobili, streaky-shooting J.R. Smith, and 3-point specialist, Steve Novak!
Keys to victory: Both are going to spread the ball and create open shots. ‘Melo needs to teach a thing or two to Leonard on his post defense, while creating openings for himself and his team of sharpshooters. As for San Antonio, who will be coming off a hard-fought game in L.A., their bench will have to step up and outscore the Knicks second-unit.
Prediction: 95-92 for San Antonio
In the first of many “reunion” games this season, Darren Collison‘s Mavs stroll into Indiana to face his old team. Collison has looked like a man on a mission since their opening night win over the Lakers. The Pacers, on the other hand, have had their share of highs and lows in these first two weeks – coming back from a late deficit to steal a victory in Toronto, while also losing a fourth quarter double-digit lead in a loss to Atlanta.
Keys to victory: For Indiana, it needs to be the David West-Roy Hibbert show, as they try to take advantage of a Dirk-less Dallas. For the Mavs, Collison must use his experience of guarding George Hill in all those scrimmages last season, to help lead his team.
Prediction: 98-97 for Dallas
The Bulls are fifth in points allowed per game. The Clippers are fourth in points scored per game. Something’s gotta give. Tom Thibodeau’s got his team in mid-season form without Derrick Rose, who could’ve come in handy against Chris Paul.
Keys to victory: The Bulls have faced an elite Point Guard this season, Kyrie Irving, who they limited to 40% shooting and harassed into 4 turnovers. They’ll need to neutralize CP3 in the same manner for a chance to win. For the Clippers, they’ll need Crawford and Bledsoe to lead the bench mob to victory.
Prediction: 96–79 for Los Angeles
Sunday, November 18 – Golden State Warriors (3-4) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-2)
The Warriors defeated the Clippers, who beat the Spurs, who won against the Thunder. So, naturally, the Warriors should beat the Thunder. Mark Jackson wishes it was that easy. This matchup has the makings of a high-scoring duel. The Warriors rank 5th on pace, while the Thunder rank 7th in points per game.
Keys to victory: In beating the Clippers, the Warriors’ sharpshooters showed that they can hang with the even faster teams around the league. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry need to combine for 50 points at least five 3-pointers. For the Thunder, Ibaka and Perkins need to neutralize the Warriors front court, who lead the league in rebounding.
Prediction: 108-92 for Oklahoma City
Last week: 5 – 1
Season record: 5 – 1
Topics: Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs