NBA Games of the Week 01/15-01/21
In the East, the Cavaliers had a rough week, the Raptors have lost some close games, the Heat can’t seem to lose, and the rest of the pack is having a hard time putting together consistent basketball. Shifting to the West, the Rockets seem to have rebounded from their rough patch, the Timberwolves are making themselves known, and the Clippers have been resurrected. Let’s get to this week’s games.
Monday January 15th (Martin Luther King Jr. Day)
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (8PM EST)
The NBA does a great job on holidays and this one is no different. The second and final REGULAR SEASON GAME between these two teams has them in different places.
The Cavaliers have struggled mightily and are losers of three straight. They welcome in a Warriors team that has a record of 35-9 despite stretches of games without one or two of their core four.
With the Warriors being the Warriors, something tells me they come into Cleveland with everyone with the full intention of destroying the Cavaliers on their home floor. Any game between these two teams is must watch. Although I want to believe that the Warriors clean house, this feels like a Lebron game, where he plays 45 minutes and scores 40 or more points and keeps the Cavaliers close.
The Cavaliers winning this game buys them some time for people to get off their backs about their struggles, but a loss turns up the volume on the criticism and the pressure for them to do something to their roster might become unbearable. Something to pay attention to is Isaiah Thomas, he played well against the Warriors in his time with the Celtics and could be a key player for the Cavaliers in this game.
Tuesday January 16th
New Orleans Pelicans at Boston Celtics (7:30PM EST)
This will be the Celtics 1st game since their game in London on January 11th. That much rest is good for your team to get healthy, but this could hurt the Celtics rhythm and they may come out cold.
This will be the first meeting of these two teams and the Celtics have not seen anything this season like Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins inside. Both are still averaging over 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. While Aron Baynes and Al Horford provide solid defense, the Celtics are thin up front and I would expect to see a great deal of Daniel Theis in this game.
The Celtics have to hope that they can hurt the Pelicans on the perimeter and that Kyrie Irving can have a big game. The Pelicans will come into Boston after playing the Knicks in New York on Sunday and they would love to get a game in Boston as they head to Atlanta for the conclusion of their three game road trip.
Despite the play of Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans have struggled to get more than one or two games above .500 on the season. If they hope to make the playoffs, they have to put together a winning streak. This is their chance to catch a Boston team coming off of a long time off. The Pelicans are currently 21-20.
Wednesday January 17th
Miami Heat at Milwaukee Bucks (8PM EST)
These two teams will meet on Sunday in Miami and this game will be the rematch in Milwaukee. The Heat have arrived and have started to deliver on the promise that they showed last season when they went on that incredible run. They are currently 8-2 in their last 10 including a 6 game winning streak.
They have guys playing well at the right time and they are doing enough to make up for the loss of Dion Waiters, who is going to be out for the rest of the season. Josh Richardson has looked like their next great player and they continue to have players step up in big moments like Wayne Ellington in their game against Toronto.
The Bucks have continued to play .500. They will win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose a game, and so on and so on. They have had some trouble separating themselves from the pack. While getting a top four seed is not vital to their playoff success, in my estimation, it would help.
They have the talent and have not found a way to translate that into win streaks. Their defense has struggled this season, but with Giannis, Khris Middleton, and Eric Bledsoe, the Bucks have an elite offense. Their hope is that they can really put it together when they get Jabari Parker back.
Thursday January 18th
Minnesota Timberwolves at Houston Rockets (9:30PM EST)
This is the first meeting of the two teams currently at the fourth and second positions in the Western Conference.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the hottest teams in the league recently. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and are on a 4 game winning game streak. They have really started to separate themselves from the rest of the West and are 4.5 games in front of the 5th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Timberwolves are really clicking at a good time. Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns have been good all season, but Taj Gibson has played some high level ball for the team recently and they have also welcomed back Jeff Teague from injury. Tyus Jones played really well in his absence and deserves more minutes.
The Houston Rockets are still playing without James Harden, but they are finding ways to win. This will be a tough game for them and they will miss Harden’s scoring and passing, but they can win. Chris Paul has played at a high level and they have been able to count on Eric Gordon to shoulder some of that burden as well. The Rockets are more concerned with getting healthy, but these two teams will meet three more times this season.
Friday January 19th
Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons (8PM EST)
These two teams are separated by two games in the standings and both have playoff aspirations. This is the third meeting between these two teams and the Pistons are looking for their first win in the series. Those two games were in Washington and this will be the first taking place in Detroit.
The Pistons are 13-5 at home and they have played much better as of late. They are trying to maintain their record without Reggie Jackson and they are 3-4 without him in the lineup. Tobias Harris has been great for them, but he still has games where he is ineffective. They need more consistent scoring from him if they hope to stay in the playoff picture.
The Wizards have been on a good stretch of basketball and they are 10-2 in their last 12 games. They are tied with the Heat for the fourth spot in the East and the Wizards are not going to be content with another second round exit in the playoffs. Bradley Beal and John Wall continue to be the engine that drives the Wizards. Otto Porter has taken a leap this season, but they need more consistent scoring from him. He has scored in single digits in 4 of his last 6 games.
This game has significance. If the Pistons lose, the Wizards will hold the tie-breaker if they happen to finish with the same record.
Saturday January 20th
Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers (3:30PM EST)
This game is the 1st meeting of the season for these teams and comes at the end of a huge week for both. If things go well, this will be a big matchup between two teams full of superstars. If things do not go well, this will be a game between two teams failing to meet expectations.
The Thunder picked up a much needed win on Sunday in Charlotte. Russell Westbrook has completely taken over and the Thunder are going to sink or swim on his offensive production. Paul George remains a big question mark for this team. Will they try to trade him or not?
The Cavaliers open up the week with the Warriors and that could make this game even bigger for them. They are only 1.5 games ahead of Miami as I type this and it would not take too many losses before the Cavs are in the thick of the East with the other teams.
Sunday January 21st
Indiana Pacers at San Antonio Spurs (7PM EST)
This is the 2nd and final meeting of the season between these two teams and the Pacers hold the advantage after winning their first encounter of the season back in October. Since then, these teams have both done well considering their circumstances.
The Pacers have surprised everyone with their record and continue to find ways to win with Victor Oladipo having an amazing season that has him knocking on the door for his first All-Star appearance. The Pacers are currently 22-20 and are positioned as the 8th seed in the East for the time being. They have been a fun team to watch.
The Spurs on the other hand have seem snake bitten this year. They have dealt with injuries to almost all of their rotation players and Kawhi injured his shoulder after coming back from his quad injury. They have still maintained a grip on the three seed in the West for the majority of the season, but the Timberwolves are coming on. They are 29-15 and are one game up on the Timberwolves. LaMarcus Aldridge has carried the team through their various injuries and he deserves some All-Star recognition for his bounce back season.