The Dime: Week 2 Edition
Ready for Seconds?
by Doobie Okon
The first week of the ’09-10 season has concluded and we’re already off to a great start in the NBA. Certain teams (Cleveland, Utah, Dallas, New Orleans) will see if they can bounce back from disappointing beginnings to their respective seasons, while other clubs will try to sustain their initial success like Chicago, Washington and Oklahoma City.
We’re now into the second week of the season and the first full week of games, which makes it that much harder to narrow and squeeze out the ten best match-ups. Hell, at first glance of the upcoming week’s schedule, I jotted 24 games that were possibilities, so there’s plenty of action and intrigue to follow beyond the Dime this week. But here goes:
1 ) Magic at Raptors: Sun, 11/1, 1:00 (ET)
Week 1 Lessons: The Magic took it to the young and fast 76ers in their first game, shooting a ridiculous 16-29 from beyond the arc while six different Magic players scored double-digits, not including Jameer Nelson or Brandon Bass. And oh yeah, Rashard Lewis is not even playing yet. Probably the only blemish about the game is that the reigning Eastern Conference champs let the Sixers make it a respectable score via 4th quarter garbage points. So yes, the Magic are stacked and should go into this game 2-0 after a date with New Jersey.
Meanwhile, after a tough loss to Boston in their opener, I expected the Cavs to bounce back against Toronto. However, the Raptors proved that last year is last year and handled Cleveland at home despite a triple double from LBJ. Why? Because the Raptors starters (and Jarrett Jack) outplayed Cleveland’s entire team. Toronto’s bench may be weak this year, but if they can get semblances of the contributions that Bosh, Bargnani, Turkoglu and Calderon gave in their first game, the Raptors could be very competitive this year. They also should walk into this one 2-0.
The Scene: Doesn’t it seem like players who were moved last year are getting a very early shot to go against their former teams this season? Well, another one is brewing in this game, with Hedo Turkoglu getting his shot at the Magic. Hedo was a vital part of Orlando’s Finals run last year but was traded and replaced by the flashier Vince Carter.
Two of the premier young point guards in Nelson and Calderon go at it, while Dwight and Bosh should trade dunks and wows. I expect double-doubles from both big men, but wouldn’t be surprised if one team won simply because either Howard or Bosh was better than the other.
Also, what to watch for: Is Bargnani ready to step up? He’s big (7’0), can shoot (28 points in the opener, 2-3 from three-point range), but he’s incredibly soft. His size, shot, and ability should make him more than a 12 and 4 guy, which are his career numbers. If he can get a little bit nastier this year, while continuing to improve his offensive game then Toronto has much to look forward to.
Prediction: Hedo shines, but Dwight annihilates the soft interior defense of the Raptors. Toronto’s shooting might keep it close, but the Magic prevail on the road. Orlando by 6.
2 ) Rockets at Jazz: Mon, 11/2, 9:00 (ET), National TV: NBA TV
Week 1 Lessons: Houston’s first two games played out as I expected. Without T-mac or Yao, they lost to a much better team in Portland but it was good to see them bounce back against the Warriors. Looks as if Scola, Ariza and Battier will have to keep this team afloat for a few months until McGrady can return and hopefully provide a spark.
Meanwhile, despite losing to a better Nuggets club in their opener, the Jazz proved they still have a multitude of weapons. Each of Utah’s starters scored in double digits, while Deron Williams put up a measly 28 points and 13 assists. Chris Paul is the standard at the position for sure, but Williams has been keeping pace with CP3 his entire career. Look for Deron to only improve with such a solid squad around him. Jazz should validate their home record of 70-12 over the past 2 seasons against the Clippers and go into their second home game feeling good.
The Scene: Simply put- the Rockets are staring at a 1-4 record going into a November 6th game with the Thunder. If they want to have any shot at making it out of this first month with a chance, their first week of games is very important, including this one. The battle I’m looking forward to is Ariza and Brewer, two big shooting guards who have both played well in the opening week. Besides that though, the Rockets will have a tough time on their hands in the paint against Boozer and co. and Coach Adelman will need to dial up some tough ‘D’ against a high-octane Utah offense.
Prediction: I just don’t see this one going well for Houston at all. They might have a shot against Utah later in the year at home, but this one has the makings for a run-away. Jazz by double-digits.
3 ) Lakers at Thunder: Tues, 11/3, 8:00 (ET)
Week 1 Lessons: The Lakers only beat the Griffin-less Clippers by 7 in their opener and have two more tough home games against the Mavs and Hawks before traveling to Soonerville. The Clippers played respectable enough to ‘only’ lose by 7. Even though I predicted they’d win by 16, they could easily beat the Clips by 30 if they wanted to. This team is loaded in every which way, but will need a better effort against Dallas and Atlanta. I still expect them to be 3-0 before this game.
Look, I’m not saying an opening victory against the horrible Sacramento Kings is monumental for the Oklahoma City Thunder. But come on, this team started 3-29 last year. So a convincing win over a bad team is a step in the right direction, as mundane as that sounds. Durant put up 25/11/4 and played 42 minutes. I’ve loved this kid since Texas because of his inexplicable ability despite the size. He’s starting to bulk up a little…and with that this boy will only get more confident and comfortable with the rock in his hands. I watched Jeff Green’s Georgetown games many times and loved this draft pick for the Thunder. I also like Westbrook and both played very well in the opener. Nenad Krstic also played well with 20 points and 7 boards, but I don’t know how his season will play out. Should be another losing effort this year for Oklahoma City, but this is a moving year for them. Just need a spark.
The Scene: Young star vs. Lakers, take two. My Lakers-Clips Dime appearance last week didn’t work out so well due to Blake Griffin’s dunk-induced broken kneecap (ouch, by the way), so this week I’m gonna try for Durant vs. the Lakers. Is Durant truly a top-5 player as many think he could be? Stay tuned to see what he can do against Kobe and the rest of LaLa.
Prediction: Heart says close one, head says blowout….hmmmm. The Lakers probably do have the defenders to take Durant out of this game, and even if he does play well, will anyone else step up that much? Probably not. Lakers by 15.
4 ) Suns at Magic: Wed, 11/4, 7:00 (ET)
Week 1 Lessons: Oh Phoenix, where have you gone? Listen, the Suns have always scored a ton of points while yielding a ton of points, so their slight 109-107 victory over the Clippers in their opener was no shocker. However, what is surprising is that this team has gone from an elite Western force 2 years ago to one who has to rally to beat the Clips. The Marion-Shaq deal still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but the team still has enough pieces in Nash, Amare, Barbosa and Hill to make a run at the playoffs. Like I said with Philly in last week’s Dime, the Suns’ season is completely up in the air. 3 very winnable games against Golden State, Minnesota and Miami coming up before going to Orlando, so keep on eye on Phoenix.
Orlando could be 4-0 headed into this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Toronto gave them fits, but Phoenix is the first real test from the West. Orlando might have an edge over the other Eastern elites this year simply because of their ridiculously easy start to their schedule. Seriously: PHI, @NJ, @TOR, @DET, PHX, DET, @OKC, @CHA, CLE, NJ, CHA, OKC. The Suns and Cavs games should be good, but the rest hugely favor the Magic.
The Scene: Run and Gun. This game could lie in the hands of Jameer Nelson. He better be ready to push his offense up and down the court if they want to keep pace, and will also need to show his ability in slowing down the game at the right times to take the Suns out of rhythm. Big comeback year for Jameer after the unfortunate injury. Howard vs Amare/Frye should be fun to watch as well, but the Suns will need to put up a defensive effort.
Prediction: Suns don’t put up a defensive effort and lose at their own game. Vince might go off in this one with help from Jameer. Magic by 5.
5 ) Heat at Wizards: Wed, 11/4, 7:00 (ET), National TV: ESPN
Week 1 Lessons: Destroying the Knicks is fine. The Heat have a very talented team and should beat up on the terrible Eastern clubs. All of their big pieces played well against New York, including Jermaine O’Neal, who needs to have a big year for Miami to succeed. Miami sports a great defensive look which O’Neal anchors, but he needs to get back to his beastly offensive days. It’ll be interesting to see how Miami fares in the three games leading up to the matchup with Washington, where they face Indiana, Chicago and Phoenix.
Hey Wiz, I apologize. In last week’s edition I said the Dallas-Washington game was a cookie for the Mavs, and the Wizards certainly proved they are for real when Arenas is at the helm fully healthy. He was fast on the court and efficient from the floor, shooting 10-29 and also recorded 9 assists along the way. Oh by the way, you know how the Jazz have the 70-12 home record over the past 2 seasons? Dallas isn’t far behind at 66-16. So props to the Wizards. Like Miami though, they have three intriguing games (@ATL, NJ, @CLE) coming up before the Heat game.
The Scene: Battle of the Eastern middles. National TV. Agent Zero vs D-Wade. Ha, ok. I’m making this out to be more dramatic than it is. The truth is we have a very good game on our hands between two teams that should make the playoffs easily in the weak East. The Wizards handled the Mavs without Antawn Jamison, surprisingly. Beasley and O’Neal are going to be key in this one as Arenas and Wade will get theirs.
Prediction: Miami by 4. I expect these two teams to be near each other in the standings all season.
6 ) Celtics at Timberwolves: Weds, 11/4, 8:00 (ET)
Week 1 Lessons: KG is back. Boston is stacked. They still remain LeBron’s biggest hurdle and proved it with a great opening road victory in Cleveland. Garnett is looking healthy and Boston sits at 2-0 after embarrassing the Bobcats in a 92-59 spanking. Great rematch of the last year’s playoffs with the Bulls, as well as games against New Orleans and Philly before Garnett returns to Minnesota.
The Timberwolves had to rally by means of a 31-15 4th quarter to beat the Nets at the buzzer, but like I said with the Thunder, it’s a step in the right direction. The T-wolves would do damage if they were in the East, but unfortunately that’s not in the cards. Hopefully, Al Jefferson is really healthy because this guy is a monster. I loved the Johnny Flynn and Wayne Ellington draft picks, and Flynn played extremely well against New Jersey, dropping 18.
The Scene: You might laugh at this game being labeled a game of the week, and I understand. I just have a feeling Minnesota will put up a fight at home. Did the Garnett-Jefferson deal help Minnesota or ruin them? Al Jefferson was the best they could have hoped for in return for KG, and I’d love to see both big men wipe away the questions about their respective injuries and go at it.
Prediction: Celtics will certainly win, but Minnesota will stay scrappy at home. Celtics by 8 as Boston will pull away in the 4th.
7 ) Mavs at Hornets: Weds, 11/4, 10:30 (ET), National TV: ESPN
Week 1 Lessons: Simple. Both teams got whooped. New Orleans definitely had a tough opener against San Antonio, but it was also against a Spurs team that lost to the Bulls the following night. CP3 and Emeka Okafor played well, but overall it was a sad effort for a team that’s supposed to be up there with the Spurs. And if the Mavericks wanted to start off the season right, losing to the Wizards at home was certainly a disappointment. The Mavericks defense was a no-show and they let Washington take control of the 4th quarter rather easily, despite Dirk’s strong performance.
The Scene: ESPN has a good night on tap Wednesday. The Mavericks have tough games against the Lakers and Jazz going to New Orleans, so we’ll see if they can rebound quickly. I do think that Dallas’ age might show this year, with Kidd, Marion, Terry, Nowitzki and Dampier all being over 31. Chris Paul will eat the Mavericks’ porous defense up but the Mavs stand a chance to win if Dirk gets some help from Kidd or Terry.
Prediction: This one’s hard. My first reaction was New Orleans, but I think the Mavericks actually come through in this one. Dallas wins it by 3.
8 ) Bulls at Cavs: Thurs, 11/5, 8:00 (ET), National TV: TNT
Week 1 Lessons: Awesome win against the Spurs for Chicago. It’s a shame Iverson and Griffin didn’t play because I should have put the Bulls-Celtics in the Dime last week. What I learned about the Bulls? Derrick Rose, if healthy, is one of the best players in the league already. He is a franchise player who has the ability to take a team on his back. Good first game for him despite the preseason ankle problems, and I am very excited to see how he does against the Celtics before playing the Cavs as well.
Cleveland- WAKE UP! Yeah, ‘LeBron’s not worried’. I keep hearing it. Of course he’s worried. This team had 16 total losses last year, so an 0-2 record is worry-some. Granted, Boston and Toronto are tough opponents, but still, show me something, Cleveland. Hopefully they can get back on track with a couple of easy wins before hosting Chicago.
The Scene: LeBron vs Rose is a nice headline even though they play completely different positions. Both are leaders though, and if Derrick Rose can lead his team to a convincing victory over the Spurs, then I imagine he can do the same to the mentally-shaken Cavaliers.
Prediction: Bulls get the road upset. We’ll see what Cleveland’s record is like after a couple of weeks, but this November could be a rude awakening for LBJ’s team. Bulls by 4.
9 ) Spurs at Blazers: Fri, 11/6, 10:30 (ET), National TV: ESPN
Week 1 Lessons: What a strange first week for San Antonio. They manhandled what’s supposed to be a very good Hornets squad and then lose to the Bulls? Granted, it was the next night in Chicago, but still I definitely expected the Spurs to start 2-0. Richard Jefferson also has started on a very average note, only averaging 7 points thus far. However, it’s early and the Spurs are still savvy and mentally tough so there’s no reason to panic in the first week.
My predictions for the Blazers last week: Beat Houston by 8 and lose to Denver by 4. What happened? They beat Houston by 9 and lost to Denver by 3. Why? Because Portland is a veryyy good team. To go toe to toe with Denver like that says to me that they are loaded with talent, youth and size and will be able to compete against the West’s best all season long.
The Scene: Two of the top Western teams go at it in this deserving ESPN game. Portland should be 4-1 heading in, and thus we will see how they fare as they continue to face the Western elites. If you’re not excited to see Tim Duncan against Greg Oden, then something is wrong with you. Oden needs to be tested on a nightly basis if he’s going to be a frontcourt staple for the Blazers. It’s youth vs. age in this showdown.
Prediction: Another hard one. However, I think Duncan shows Gregory how it’s done and the Spurs take it by 6.
10 ) Nuggets at Hawks: Sat, 11/7, 7:00 (ET), National TV: NBA TV
Week 1 Lessons: My predictions for the Nuggets last week? Beat Utah by 10 and get the road victory at Portland by 4. What happened? They beat Utah by 9 and beat the Blazers by 3. Why? Because the Nuggets, like Portland, are a very good team. If ‘Melo stays on course and leads his team to victories, his name could definitely end up in the MVP argument. A very good start against two Western powerhouses, and now they face Memphis, Indiana, New Jersey and Miami before the Hawks game. Denver will be off to a sizzling start.
Atlanta definitely seems ready to take that illustrious 4th seed in the East. Nice 120-109 victory over Danny Granger and the Pacers. What I really like about the Hawks is that despite lacking a superstar, their starting five is extremely solid across the board and they proved it with all 5 scoring in double digits. We will see just exactly where the Hawks are at in their progression over the next 3 games against the Wizards, Lakers and Blazers.
The Scene: I think this could be a very exciting offensive game. Denver’s new-look defense will be tested while there are good individual matchups all around in this one: Billups vs Bibby, Melo vs Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams, Nene and Kenyon vs Josh Smith and Horford. They mostly favor Denver, although if Smith and Horford can outplay Nene and Martin, they definitely have a shot at taking this game.
Prediction: I think Atlanta is very comfortable playing at home and will put up a very solid effort. Denver just has a better team and will outplay the Hawks. Not a bad sign for Atlanta if they go down fighting. Nuggs by 7.