Matchups & Predictions:
Magic (10-13) @ Hornets (13-9)
Heat (7-15) @ Cavs (15-5)
Raptors (15-7) @ Celtics (13-9)
Hawks (11-12) @ Bucks (11-9)
Rockets (15-7) @ Thunder (14-8)
Pistons (12-12) @ Wolves (6-16)
Pacers (11-11) @ Mavs (4-17)
Suns (6-16) @ Lakers (10-14)
Knicks (12-10) @ Kings (8-13)
- 1: Harden vs Westbrook. Who can say no to a quick rematch of these two. OKC snuck over the line in the first outing in Houston, with Russ outshining Harden easily in the personal duel. Can Harden flip the storyline this time? He will need to improve heavily on his 13/7/13 line from last time if the Rockets are any hope of squaring up at 1-1.
- 2: Are the Bucks a Playoff Team? Sure looks like it. The Greek Freak is going to be an All-Star, and currently has to be in consideration for MIP, DPOY and MVP. The do it all guard/forward/centre has elevated a Bucks team many left for dead after the Middleton injury and a slow start. With Jabari Parker growing into the destructive offensive force many envisioned, there is no reason to bet against this team right now.
- 3: The battle for the Atlantic Division. Although the Knicks are hanging in there, the race for top spot on this division is currently down to 2. With Horford back in the fold the Celtics look a much better unit, while the guards continue put the Raptors fortunes on their back. With neither team seemingly taking the next step at this early stage, perhaps a win over their closest division rival will be just what they need.
- 4: Drummond vs Towns. The Big Man Renaissance Tour continues as Karl-Anthony and Andre square off. Drummond is one of the most agile and physical bigs in the league, and offers an imposing obstacle for the wunderkind Towns. Towns has fended off the Sophomore Slump and is arguably better than he was last year. Will brute force and tenacity or generational skill prevail?
#JerseyBet Competition: Pick the best numbers. If you guess the player(s) who will have the highest number of points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, you win a jersey of your choice… as long as we don’t get it right too!
David: PTS – Harden, REB – Drummond, AST – Westbrook, STL – Giannis, BLK – Whiteside.
Xander: PTS – Westbrook, REB – Cousins, AST – Harden, STL – Ariza, BLK – Giannis.
Spotlight Game: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers
Phoenix Suns (6-16) @ Los Angeles Lakers (10-14)
Staples Centre, Fri 9th December @ 10:30pm ET (AUS – 2:30pm Sat 10th)
The Suns have always had a fierce rivalry with LA and ironically the Lakers are doing what the Suns would like to be doing this year. They have mixed veterans with young talent and Luke Walton has the team playing together with a sniff of the playoffs bound to keep them motivated for a while yet. Phoenix have also struggled so far this season getting up for the lesser games while playing well against the top teams but falling short. If I know this Suns team, they will be ready to go for this one. Phoenix and LA are both in the lower half of NBA teams for D-Rating and injuries to Warren on the Suns side and Russell/Young on the Lakers side mean they will also need to find a groove on the offensive side of the ball too. Better than advertised defence will win this game. Bledsoe and Booker shouldn’t struggle with whomever they get at in the backcourt. Phoenix’s starting vets can nullify any impact from those on the Lakers side, with Tucker (Deng) & Chandler (Mozgov) two of the Suns better defensive guys. Perhaps there is a hole at PF where Randle could take advantage of Marquese Chriss but if all goes well, the Suns could win this one. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say they will.
Remember when the Lakers were above .500 and were looking like the adolescent version of the Warriors? Yeah, that seems like a long time ago. Injuries have struck, and Luke Walton has been forced to channel his inner Don Nelson in concocting strange line-ups and hoping square pegs can fit into round holes. I can’t even be sure this will be the Lakers’ starting unit, but they are the most recent so they are as good a pick as any. If healthy, this season’s Laker team should handle the Suns. The size and strength of Mozgod and Randle should allow them to pound the glass and attack the rim. However without Swaggy Young and ‘Ice Veins’ Russell (not to mention Calderon, who played well in place of D’Angelo), LA just won’t have enough shooting. Big games will be needed for the under-sized backcourt, especially from Clarkson. Huertas just needs to annoy Bledsoe and Knight as much as possible. Maybe Ingram can have a break out game off the bench, or Deng can throw it back to his Chicago days. But my bet is that this latest brew from Walton is just off.
Key Bench Guys:
The curious case of Alex Len. In a contract year, it’s easy to get the feeling that Len is getting worse the more that time passes by. In my opinion, this is a little unfair and the team is not giving him the chance to put his best foot forward. With Chandler’s missed games, Len has both started and come off the bench in roughly equal amounts this season. His stats are understandably better when starting, mainly due to an increase in minutes. However his efficiency is also drastically different as a starter, 57% from the field compared to 41% off the pine. This is likely due to a more defined role in the starting unit and not being asked of too much. Chandler isn’t going anywhere fast, so whilst I sympathise with Len’s plight it is up to him to find his groove in the 2nd unit and be just as impactful from there for now.
The Lakers might be struggling as a team, but my goodness Sweet Lou is scorching hot. Averages over his last 3 games: 33 points, 53.8% from the field inc 48% from 3 and 96.3% from the FT line, plus 2 steals per. All that in 30 min a night. Lou is coming into this game averaging career highs in points, eFG, PER and usage. Phoenix legitimately need to game plan to shut down Williams, and there will be a lot of pressure on Brandon Knight to provide similar production off the bench to offset the damage Williams has been causing. If Lou goes off again, the Lakers will snap their 4 game losing streak.