Matchups & Predictions:
Wizards (2-7) @ 76ers (1-9)
Pelicans (2-9) @ Magic (4-7)
Cavaliers (9-1) @ Pacers (5-6)
Mavericks (2-7) @ Celtics (5-5)
Pistons (6-5) @ Knicks (4-6)
Bucks (5-4) @ Hawks (8-2)
Rockets (6-4) by 10-14 @ Thunder (6-5)
Warriors (8-2) @ Raptors (7-3)
Suns (3-8) @ Nuggets (3-7)
Grizzlies (5-5) @ Clippers (10-1)
Spurs (8-3) @ Kings (4-7)
- Cavaliers @ Pacers – Two seasons ago, this would probably be the game of the night. Right now though, the Cavs are rolling and the Pacers are….well stalled. It’s hardly a surprise right now on either side but a vintage Lebron versus PG13 matchup could make this game entertaining at least.
- Warriors @ Raptors – The Warriors look like they are working things out since losing to the Lakers. But their wins have come against NOP, DAL, DEN & PHX. I’m looking forward to this one as I think both teams records are perhaps a little generous on actual form. We should know more about both after this result and margin.
- Grizzlies @ Clippers – 11 games into the season and I don’t think you’ll find a single person convinced about LA just yet. This game is exactly the type of one they have lost in recent years. Despite wiping lowly teams off the court and impressing against strong competition; will the Clippers lose to a team who is neither?
- Suns @ Nuggets – As far as the 5th best matchup of the night goes, there’s probably plenty that could be picked before this one. But I always look forward to a rivalry round with Linton. This feels perhaps a little important (even if selfishly) as the winner will stay in touch with the playoff bubble and the loser further off the early pace.
#JerseyBet Competition: If I don’t get all 11 predictions right and you do, you win a jersey of your choice. Must include a 5 point margin in the Spotlight Game for tie breaker purposes.
Spotlight Game: Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Houston Rockets (6-4) @ Oklahoma City Thunder (6-5)
Chesapeake Energy Arena – November 16th @ 8:00pm ET (AUS – 12:00pm Thurs 17th)
From all reports Patrick Beverley will return to the Rockets lineup for this one and should be injected right back into the starting lineup. The Rockets have potentially exceeded outside expectations so far and I expect the return of their starting PG could improve them even further. In a matchup such as this one, Beverley can take on the defensive responsibilities of guarding Westbrook (and plenty of other star PG’s in this league) and slot in on offence. It changes very little for the primary ball handler in Harden or any of the other starters roles for that matter. The bench also gets a necessary boost for win win’s all-round. Look for Harden to battle Russ for a triple double and the Ariza/Anderson duo to stretch out the recent leaky OKC defence (111.2 pts allowed last 4 games). Capela, you have one job in this one. Protect the rim.
After a hot start the Thunder have cooled off, losing their last 4 contests. You could argue the Thunder had a soft opening schedule (and I did) but there’s a lot more to them coming back down to earth. The defence hasn’t been up to scratch recently and while Russ is largely still doing his thing, he is being let down by teammates and equally not doing enough to bring them into the game. Hopefully Russ can forget the triple double duel with Harden and focus on the W. Oladipo needs to pull himself out of the recent rut and a game against Houston is the best chance to do so. There might be some cross matching with Roberson on Harden at times to reduce his impact, which should be fine as Russ and Dipo are only left with Beverley and Ariza on the perimeter. If the Thunder are any chance in this one, they need Sabonis and Adams to dominate the interior. Particularly on offence, the duo could get on top of the Rockets in the low post and on the glass.
Key Bench Guys:
Whether Eric Gordon starts or comes off the pine, it doesn’t matter. He has experienced both so far this year in Beverley’s absence but it has rarely altered his minutes (31.8) or production (12.6 FGA). Expect Gordon to return to the sixth man role for this one and pickup where he has left off. He should be able to provide the scoring the bench unit needs and feast on a shallow team like the Thunder, doubling up on Harden’s likely damage. It is where I’d prefer to see him long term too.
Jerami Grant is only 8 games into his Thunder career but already looks to be enjoying this stint more than his last. His minutes have fluctuated while he finds his feet but he has already provided several highlight plays for OKC fans to get excited about. Playing within a bench unit that lacks athleticism and experience, I’m looking for Grant to establish 25 minutes a night off the bench. He is key particularly in this game as the Rockets will look to play an up and down pace, which should suit Grant down the ground.