NBA Games of the Week 12/4-12/10
It was a very busy week in the NBA. Our first coach firing happened in Memphis as the Grizzlies said goodbye to David Fizdale. The Grizzlies are still on their losing streak, which currently stands at 11 games and counting. After losing Paul Millsap, the Nuggets had a huge scare when Nikola Jokic went down against the Bulls and will miss the next few games. Also, Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell has emerged as a rookie to watch and he might make this rookie of the year award race much more interesting. Out East, the Celtics continue to dominate, but they were beaten soundly by the Detroit Pistons as Andre Drummond dominated the Celtics in the paint. Despite that big win, the Pistons have lost two in a row to the John Wall-less Wizards and the 76ers. The consolation is that now Joel Embiid has another feud. The Cavaliers have not lost since November 9th and it looks like LeBron really, really wants to win the MVP award. The NBA is awesome, let’s get to the games.
Monday December 4th
Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs (8:30 PM EST)
As mentioned above, the Detroit Pistons have lost two in a row and thanks to the surging Cavaliers and consistency of the Toronto Raptors, they find themselves in the fourth spot in the East. They travel to Texas to play a San Antonio team that is on their own four game winning streak after back to back wins over the Grizzlies. The Spurs will play on Sunday in Oklahoma City and have to travel back to San Antonio for the game, so the Pistons could have an advantage in that regard. LaMarcus Aldridge has been on a tear and the Spurs size could provide some problems for Detroit’s small starting lineup. Tobias Harris will have his hands full with Aldridge or Gasol for the Spurs. However, on the other end he can cause some problems for them as well. This should make for a great game and this will be a good test for a young up and coming Pistons team.
Tuesday December 5th
Utah Jazz at Oklahoma City Thunder (8:00 PM EST)
Donovan Mitchell has become must see TV. The rookie has helped the Jazz weather the storm without their franchise center, Rudy Gobert. The Jazz have won 5 in a row and have brought themselves out of the abyss of the West. With the Nuggets going through some injury issues of their own, every game counts. In addition to Mitchell’s coming out party, Alec Burks has been huge for the Jazz scoring 20 points in back to back games for the first time since 2015. If the Jazz can count on Burks to become this kind of scorer, their depth and scoring ability at the wings could be a game changer for their ceiling as a team. They will travel to face a team that is facing their own look into the abyss, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder did end their losing streak after a crazy performance by Steven Adams, where he did not miss a shot going for a career high 27 points. The Thunder needed that win and the bigger point is that it happened in a close game. That could be huge for the Thunder and that win against the Timberwolves could be the turning point in their season.
Wednesday December 6th
Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans (8:00 PM EST)
As mentioned above, this game might feature no Nikola Jokic for the Nuggets and Anthony Davis might be out for the Pelicans. However, this still an intriguing matchup because there are huge playoff implications potentially. The Nuggets have to stay afloat with their bigs out of the lineup and the Pelicans want to keep pace with the 5 teams within a game of each other in the standings. Jamal Murray was huge for the Nuggets in a win over the Lakers and caused some controversy with a weird play at the end of the game, but they are going to need Murray if they hope to do anything this season. Without Anthony Davis in the lineup, the Pelicans struggled against the Jazz, but when you have DeMarcus Cousins on your team good things happen. Despite the absence of some great big men, Cousins should be more than enough to fill the talent vacuum.
Thursday December 7th
Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers (8:00 PM EST)
The conclusion of the Lakers vs 76ers games for the season will take place in Philadelphia on Thursday. The last game was a breakout performance for Joel Embiid. Since that game, the 76ers have gone 5-3 and are looking like a solid playoff team in the East. While Embiid and Simmons are going to get the lion’s share of the attention, the 76ers supporting cast has been huge. J.J. Redick and Robert Covington form one of the best shooting wing combinations in the league and do their jobs. Their shooting allows Embiid and Simmons to dominate inside. They are a tough matchup for the Lakers. The Lakers have gone in the opposite direction since that game having lost four in a row heading into a Sunday matchup with the Houston Rockets. The Lakers could enter this 76ers game with a 5 game losing streak. Despite Embiid’s performance, their last game was close. Julius Randle really struggled in that game and he seems to have found his role as a backup center for the team. Randle having a good game could be huge for a Lakers team that might desperately need a win.
Friday December 8th
Boston Celtics at San Antonio Spurs (9:30 PM EST)
This game features two of the best teams in the league that have great records despite the absence of their best players, which is arguable for the Celtics after Irving’s season thus far. The absences of Gordon Hayward and Kawhi Leonard would have crippled a lot of teams, but Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens are great coaches and they get the most out of their players. The Celtics are not a big team and they can be hurt inside. The Spurs length could be a big problem for the Celtics. Kyrie Irving had an unforgettable game against the Spurs a few seasons ago and another great performance in San Antonio for him could help the Celtics get a win to keep the suddenly hot Cavaliers at bay. The thing I am most excited about for this game are the wing matchups between Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the Celtics going up against Kyle Anderson and Danny Green for the Spurs. All four guys play defense and are sneaky good shot blockers. There could be a lot of rejections in this game. Tony Parker’s return is something else to keep in mind. While I would not see Parker playing big minutes, the Spurs have kept him under 20 and he has looked good. By this time, the minutes restriction may be lifted and we can see the Spurs with their point guard. Should be a great game.
Saturday December 9th
Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers (10:00 PM EST)
The Houston Rockets are the hottest team in basketball right now. They are absolutely blowing teams off the court with a barrage of three pointers and amazing guard play. Chris Paul and James Harden are absolutely devastating to have to deal with for 48 minutes. The Rockets have won 6 in a row as I write this and in the midst of that winning streak they are winning by an average margin of 21 points while shooting over 40 three pointers per game and hitting over 40% as a team in 5 of those games. Let’s just say that they are very difficult to beat at the moment. The Trail Blazers are a tough team to figure out. They have the 2nd best defense in the league according to defensive rating and they are struggling offensively, but they are up and down from night to night. They have had some big wins this year, but also some tough losses. Jusuf Nurkic has been up and down and they need him to be more consistent with his play if they hope to remain in the playoff race. They are one of the five teams separated by one game in the standings and they cannot have too many lost opportunities like losing to the Pelicans without Anthony Davis. The guard matchup in this game is going to be fun seeing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum take on Chris Paul and James Harden, this one will be good.
Sunday December 10th
Boston Celtics at Detroit Pistons (4:00 PM EST)
This rematch for the Pistons could be huge. The Pistons have four big games this week against tough competition. They play the Spurs, Bucks, and Warriors heading into this matchup with the Celtics. They could be on a 5 game losing streak heading into this game and that would easily make this a must win game for them. The Celtics have some tough games as well including a game against the Bucks and playing the Spurs two days before this game. Both of these teams have playoff aspirations and hope to challenge the Cavaliers. They cannot afford to lose these head to head matchups. It could be the difference between home court in a second round matchup. The Celtics were beaten soundly on their home floor and while their style is tough for teams to handle, the Pistons present some real problems for the Celtics. It will be interesting to see the adjustments that Brad Stevens makes in preparation for this game. The Pistons had a nice blueprint to beating the Celtics, but they will need another monster game from Drummond to pick up a potentially huge home win.