NBA Games of the Week 12/11-12/17
The NBA season has now passed the quarter mark of the season and some things are starting to really take shape. The time to say that a team needs time to gel is diminishing and we are getting closer and closer to panic time for some teams. The Rockets have been downright dominant. They have not lost a game when Chris Paul has played and in the games without Chris Paul they are 10-4. They are currently on a 9 game winning streak. The Warriors are without Stephen Curry for the next few weeks and have managed to continue to win. The Memphis Grizzlies ended their losing streak only to start another one and the Cavaliers finally lost after their 13 game winning streak. The Pistons are struggling and are in the midst of a 5 game losing streak heading into their game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday. We also had our first big trade of the season with Jahlil Okafor being moved to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Trevor Booker. There will be more of those this season, it is just a matter of when. Let's get to the games.
Monday December 11th
Portland Trail Blazers at Golden State Warriors (10:30 PM EST)
The Golden State Warriors come into this game having won 6 in a row. They are 2-0 without Stephen Curry and there is no reason to believe that they are not still an elite team without Curry. For that matter, if they have three of their four stars, they will be fine. Kevin Durant has been big for them without Curry, averaging 35.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 10.5 rebounds without Curry. Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers have struggled. Their loss to Houston on Saturday was particularly tough. They were up 14 heading into the fourth quarter and then their lead was just gone. They have lost four in a row and are now one game above .500. They might also be without Damian Lillard. He finished the game with Houston despite tweaking his ankle. They have been victim of great individual performances. In their last three games, they have given up 38 to DeMarcus Cousins, 51 to Bradley Beal, and now 48 to James Harden. They have to do better if they hope to maintain the pace in the West.
Tuesday December 12th
Denver Nuggets at Detroit Pistons (7:00 PM EST)
The Nuggets need any win that they can get without Millsap and Jokic. Gary Harris has played well, but Jamal Murray has continued to struggle. Kenneth Faried has stepped up and played some great games for them after being an afterthought at the beginning of the season. He has scored in double figures in three of the four games and has gotten double digit rebounds in two of the four games. They will need him to continue that against the Pistons. Detroit comes into this game having lost 5 in a row. If they lose to the Celtics on Sunday, this will be the closest thing to a must win game they have had all season. They had a tough schedule playing six quality teams heading into this game, but a team that looked like possible Eastern Conference contenders have been served a slice of humble pie. They have had great health and will need to start winning games to keep pace. A 7 or 8 game losing streak in December could be the difference between a four seed and a seven seed come playoff time.
Wednesday December 13th
Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers (7:00 PM EST)
These two teams have played before, but this will be Paul George's first and only return to Indiana during the season, unless they meet in the Finals...okay, this will be his only return. Paul George has been out with an injury, but the feeling seems to be that he will be back in time for this one. The Pacers and their fans have to be happy with the trade looking back on it. Even if Victor Oladipo cannot keep up his play, he has said and done all of the right things, even calling Indiana home. The Pacers are coming off ending the Cavaliers win streak and continue to look like a playoff team. The future is bright for this Pacers team with Myles Turner, Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis. The Thunder have continued to struggle and are coming off of a close win in Memphis that they needed desperately. They have not had a winning streak longer than 3 games and every time they run off a couple of wins, they seem to take a step back. The Thunder are a tough match up for the Pacers, but the arena will be excited for this game. The Thunder will play the Hornets leading into this game and with another win could come into Indiana with some momentum. Steven Adams has also been on a tear and he is a tough match up for the Pacers inside.
Thursday December 14th
New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets (7:30 PM EST)
The Knicks put a 21 point beat down on the Nets in their fourth game for their first win of the season and these have two fun teams to watch this season. The Knicks have lost 6 of their last 8 and have had some injury troubles lately. The Knicks and Nets are on the fringe of the playoffs in the East and that makes these meetings even more important despite the geographical rivalry. In their last game, Porzingis dominated the Nets on his way to 30 points. He has been quite good this season, but has missed some games due to injury. The Nets just made a trade for another top three pick that had worn out his welcome with their trade for Jahlil Okafor. It will be interesting to see the Nets integrate Okafor into the line-up. The Nets have tread water, but have also had a lot of trouble with injuries to Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell. Russell has only played in 12 games for the team and they are finding guys to step up. They already have 10 wins this season, which is something considering how long it took them last year. This should be a fun game between two young and hungry teams.
Friday December 15th
San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets (9:30 PM EST)
The Rockets are the hottest team in basketball winning 15 of their last 16 games with an offense that is so explosive and a defense that has become stingy. They are on another level right now. This game against San Antonio will be a big one. It is their first meeting since the Spurs put the boots to the Rockets in the playoffs last season and it will be the 2nd game back for Kawhi Leonard if he makes his return against the Mavericks. The Spurs have down well without their superstar, but that is the story of the Spurs. They have won 10 of their last 12 with great play from LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay playing some of the best basketball of his career. The individual brilliance of James Harden has been on full display this season and Chris Paul has had some success against the Spurs in his career. Add into that the history of Mike D'Antoni with the Spurs and this is just a fun rivalry. I am intrigued by how the Spurs defend the Rockets in this game. They put together a blueprint in the playoffs last year and it will be interesting to see if they stick with it. Whether the Rockets win or lose this game, they will continue to be a handful for every team in the league.
Saturday December 16th
Utah Jazz at Cleveland Cavaliers (7:30 PM EST)
The Jazz are hitting a tough part of their schedule. Heading into this week they are on a three game losing streak. They take on the Bulls and Celtics leading up to this match up with the Cavaliers. The Jazz defense will have their hands full with LeBron James and the Cavaliers' offense. The Jazz have continued to struggle to score the ball, but the emergence of Alec Burks and Donovan Mitchell is great for them moving forward. Rudy Gobert has been good in his return for the Jazz, but they have to figure out the rotation and how to play Derrick Favors with Gobert or to split them up. The Cavaliers struggles seem so long ago and behind that is the absolute dominance of LeBron James. He has been unbelievable for the Cavaliers. The Cavaliers beat the 76ers on Saturday night and will play against the Hawks and Lakers heading into their game with the Jazz and they would love nothing more than to get on another win streak. The Cavaliers can hurt the Jazz with Kevin Love and Channing Frye's ability to stretch the floor taking away Gobert from the paint. However, the Cavaliers have no one that can guard Alec Burks or Donovan Mitchell and the two of them could have big games.
Sunday December 17th
Cleveland Cavaliers at Washington Wizards (6:00 PM EST)
This is the first match up of these two teams since LeBron James' decision to win the game no matter what putting up 57 points. These two teams expect to be around come playoff time, but are in different situations at the moment. Cleveland as mentioned, has been amazing and are currently 2nd in the conference. The Wizards have struggled to play consistently and have given up some really tough games to sub-par teams. They recently lost to the Clippers, who have struggled mightily since Blake Griffin's injury. Otto Porter has been incredible this season and Bradley Beal has been explosive putting up some big scoring games recently, but the rest of the team has struggled with John Wall out of the lineup. Wall is supposed to return to the lineup this week against Memphis and that could be huge for the Wizards in this game. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and need to start winning games against inferior teams. Their schedule will get more difficult and without breathing room, they could find themselves as the 6 or 7 seed with the improved play of the Bucks and the consistency of the Raptors.