Monday, December 10 – San Antonio Spurs (17 – 4) vs. Houston Rockets (9 – 10)
I love me some lefty matchups. Manu Ginobili vs. James Harden is probably the best of the bunch. Another juicy matchup is Tim Duncan against Omer Asik. It’s entirely plausible to see Asik shutting down Duncan, the glue of this Spurs squad, while Harden exposes Ginobili’s declining game (worst shooting season of career with 40% FG%), as the Rockets pulling off the surprise win.
Keys to Victory: Chandler Parsons is having a breakout season and has a chance to have a statement game against a quality opponent. He scored a season-high 31 points against the Knicks, dropped 25 on the Heat, and shot 80% for 24 points against the Lakers. A double-double out of their super Soph will open up the games of Harden and Jeremy Lin. For the Spurs, they need to continue to move the ball well. In beating the Rockets last week, they amassed 33 assists (they also lead the league, averaging 25.5 per game). Another game with that kind of movement will surely get San Antonio another victory.
Prediction: San Antonio wins 114 – 97
Tuesday, December 11 – Los Angeles Clippers (14 – 6) vs. Chicago Bulls (11 – 8)
The Clippers embark on an important four-game road trip through the Eastern Conference. The Lakers are a Steve Nash recovery away from possibly returning to prominence. The Warriors have been playing great basketball and are nipping at the Clips’ heels atop the Pacific Division. While we’re robbed of a CP3/D-Rose duel, this game features a solid front court battle in Blake Griffin/DeAndre Jordan vs. Joakim Noah/Carlos Boozer/Taj Gibson.
Keys to Victory: On November 17, the Clippers bench outscored its own starters 53 – 48 as L.A. easily defeated the Bulls, 101 – 80. Jamal Crawford is likely licking his chops at showing up his former team, this time on their court. For the Bulls, they’ll need a lot more out of Noah. He was absolutely embarrassed the last time these teams faced, scoring four points and going 0 – 6 from the field. Noah’s coming off a spectacular game against the Pistons (30 points, 23 boards, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and the Bulls will need a repeat performance to stave off the Clippers.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins 96 – 89.
Wednesday, December 12 – Golden State Warriors (13 – 7) vs. Miami Heat (13 – 5)
Upset alert! The Warriors are neck and neck with the Clippers for the early-season division lead. They’re playing with a drastically improved defense and are one of the league leaders in pace – which will come in handy against the Heat. Miami has struggled at home when facing teams who push the ball. They’ve needed last-minute Ray Allen 3′s to help beat the Nuggets (4th in pace) and Spurs (7th in pace). Golden State ranks 6th in pace and also won their only matchup last season.
Keys to Victory: For the Warriors, keep the pace up. Their confidence should be sky high, especially knowing the Heat are currently struggling. By doubling Steph Curry, the Heat are forcing Klay Thompson and his poor 40 FG%, to beat them.
Prediction: Golden State wins 113 – 111.
Thursday, December 13 – Los Angeles Lakers (9 – 12) vs. New York Knicks (15 – 5)
It’s Thursday night, the Lakers visit the Knicks, Kobe Bryant has just become the fifth player to eclipse 30,000 points and holds the MSG record of 61 points by a visitor – do you get the feeling that we’re in for a special night from the league’s leading scorer? In fact, we’ve got the league’s top two scorers (Carmelo Anthony), Mike D’Antoni’s return to New York, and the two largest television markets in the world. Get your popcorn ready!
Keys to Victory: Ask the Miami Heat how well Mike Woodson prepares his team before every game. You think his team will be familiar with the Lakers’ system? If the Knicks space the floor and knock down threes like they were able to do twice to the Heat, then they’ll beat L.A. For the Lakers, Kobe needs to shoot the ball less than 20 times. In the last 11 games, whenever Kobe has shot the ball more than 20 times, L.A. has lost. When he’s shot it less, they’ve won.
Prediction: New York wins 113 – 97.
Friday, December 14 – Memphis Grizzlies (14 – 4) vs. Denver Nuggets (10 – 11)
This is a matchup of contrasting teams. Memphis ranks 2nd in opponents scoring at 91.2 points per game, while Denver ranks 8th with 100.7 points per game. The Grizzlies keep a slow pace, ranking 23rd (90.9), while the Nuggets rank 7th (92.9). Memphis ranks 3rd allowing only 39.8 total rebounds per game, while Denver ranks 2nd grabbing 46.7 total rebounds per game. When these teams met on November 19, Denver ended Memphis’ 8-game winning streak with a 97-92 road victory.
Keys to Victory: Marc Gasol needs to hit the glass and grab more boards. In their previous meeting, Gasol was out-rebounded by each of Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos, and Javale McGee. For Denver, Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala were (understandably) shut down by Mike Conley and Tony Allen. They’ll need another big game by Danilo Gallinari, who scored 26 points last time.
Prediction: Memphis wins 95 – 89.
Saturday, December 15 – Boston Celtics (11 – 9) vs. San Antonio Spurs (17 – 4)
This game marks the 42nd meeting between Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, with Duncan holding a 24-17 advantage. Enjoy two of the best Power Forwards in NBA history while they’re still double-double threats. When they faced off on November 21, Duncan outscored (20 – 14), out-rebounded (15 – 3), and outshot (58.3 FG% vs. 50%) Garnett. Subsequently, the Spurs won 112 – 100.
Keys to Victory: Somebody from Boston’s bench needs to step up. In the previous meeting, the Spurs bench outscored the Celtics’ 34 – 19. Leandro Barbosa had the most disappointing game with four points and a -15 rating. For the Spurs, they’ll need the old Manu Ginobili to return. Ginobili is struggling with his lowest point and rebound averages since his rookie season, while also going through his worst shooting season (40 FG%). Those figures are unacceptable for a team that’s already without Stephen Jackson and Kawhi Leonard, and with Danny Green and Gary Neal playing through injuries.
Prediction: Boston wins 103 – 97
Sunday, December 16 – New Orleans Hornets (5 – 14) vs. Portland Trailblazers (8 – 12)
It’s Damian Lillard’s Trailblazers vs. Anthony Davis‘ Pelicans. While it’s easy to poke fun at the Hornets’ possible new nickname, there’s nothing funny about Lillard’s Rookie of the Year campaign. He leads all rookies in scoring, has Portland in the thick of the playoff race, and has quickly taken over as the leading candidate for ROY – a distinction that was reserved for Davis by many (just not here!).
Keys to Victory: Portland has four players who score at least 16 points per game – LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, Wesley Matthews, and Lillard. Getting three of those four to reach their averages against a squad with only one elite defender (Davis) should be enough to get the win. The Hornets are 3 – 1 when they score 100 points in games decided in regulation. The Blazers give up one of the worst point totals in the NBA, averaging 102.0. If New Orleans can shoot the lights out like they did vs. Milwaukee and the Clippers, then Davis may get the first laugh in this Rookie of the Year campaign, at least in the head-to-head.
Prediction: Portland wins 103 – 85
Last Week: 5 -2
Season Record: 20 – 13
Topics: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, Games Of The Week, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs