A Three-Course, Six Game Meal
Enjoy the menu.
We have two appetizer choices for you–games that should start your night off on an exciting note but have you craving the rest of the meal:
1) Rockets at Lakers: Sun, 11/15, 9:30 (ET)
Dinner hasn’t started yet and you’re hungry, right? At this point, you just want to get your hands on something good and tasty. Well dive into this scintillating dish–a rematch of an overtime thriller only 11 days prior.
Bad blood began brewing between Houston and Los Angeles after last season’s seven-game second-round series, only to grow once Trevor Ariza and Ron Artest swapped teams in the offseason. You couldn’t tell either A-man apart on November 4th though: Both scored 15 points. One threw an elbow, the other retaliated with two. The twosome drew offsetting technicals only three minutes into the game. And for good measure: Artest nailed a three to put the Lakers up 3 with 30 seconds left in regulation only to have Ariza send it to overtime with a 3-ball 16 seconds later. So with neither really gaining the upper hand in Houston, you know this matchup will be intense and fun enough to watch by itself.
Beyond that, both teams should be feeling good about themselves at this point. L.A. was struggling to look dominant in its first five games, but have regained form their past two victories, beating the Grizzlies and Hornets both by 16 points, and both without Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol. The McYao-less Rockets, meanwhile, continue to play hard in the absence of their two centerpieces, going 5-3 with losses to the Blazers, Lakers and Mavericks. Three of the West’s best, therefore Houston shouldn’t feel too disappointed. So kick off your meal with this delicious matchup.
Prediction: Like the last game, Bynum should play but Gasol almost definitely won’t. Kobe plays well at home but Houston gets its short-term revenge. Rockets by 4.
This game might qualify as an entree to some people, but until one of these clubs dethrones Orlando in the Southeast, then an app. it shall remain. Having said that, it’s an enticing appetizer featuring the Miami Heat defense, who’s 88.6 points against are currently third lowest in the NBA, against the Atlanta Hawks offense, fourth highest in the NBA at 107.8 ppg.
Both teams are off to hot starts and keeping early pace with the 6-3 Magic. The Heat are 6-1 while Atlanta sits behind them at 6-2, and both records are legit. The two teams are responsible for Denver’s two losses so far. Miami’s only loss was to the scorching Phoenix Suns, a game where the Heat had a six point cushion going into the 4th. Meanwhile, the Hawks’ two blemishes are the Lakers, where Atlanta fell short of a monstrous 4th quarter comeback, and a shocking 20 point loss to the Bobcats. Atlanta, however, followed up the Lakers game with a convincing road win over Portland and then proceeded to destroy the Nuggets, 125-100, the night after the Charlotte mockery. Resilience is always key.
Both rosters are full of talent–while Miami’s Dwyane Wade continues to do his best MVP impression, it is Miami’s big men that are anchoring the Heat’s suffocating defense. Beasley has yet to find his offensive game, but is definitely a presence in the paint. Jermaine O’Neal is giving the Heat quality minutes on both ends of the floor, shooting 58.8% and effectively defending opposing centers. Udonis Haslem is a great option off the bench. And it doesn’t hurt that Wade and Mario Chalmers are some scary defenders as well. Over in the ATL, it’s simple–five guys are averaging double-digit points and I’d put the Hawks’ starting five plus Crawford up there with any team’s top 6.
So the difference between the two teams is clear: Atlanta has scored over 100 in six games but have also given up 100-plus six times. The Heat, meanwhile, have given up 100-plus points only once, but have scored over 100 only once as well….Something’s gotta give.
Prediction: I’m going offense on this one, with the Hawks squeaking it out by 6. Orlando won’t be able to cruise at all this season as Miami and Atlanta should be jockeying for position right below. Any other week, you might order this app. as an entree, but not when you have these following dishes to consider.
Your mouth should be salivating for these two choices. You want a tasty dish that also makes you full? You need drama, intrigue, history and bad blood…and most of all, an awesome basketball game between two elite, loaded teams. These matchups should fill you up good.
1) Magic at Celtics: Fri, 11/20, 8:00 (ET), National TV: ESPN
An ESPN dandy. While Houston and L.A. went at it in a seven-game epic in the secound round, Orlando and Boston matched with their own back-and-forth seven-gamer in the same round of the Playoffs. Add some new faces to the rivalry in Vince Carter and Rasheed Wallace….and oh yea, a Mr. Kevin Garnett will be active this time around.
Look, it’s obvious that when two of the top three Eastern conference teams play each other, you could eat that up any day and be satisfied. You just have to wish you see the matchup between two healthy squads so you can get the most out of your viewing.
The Magic are off to an interesting start. After beginning the season 5-1, I seriously overestimated them this past week as they got routed by the Thunder, beat the lowly Bobcats only to then get dismantled by their Eastern counterpart, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Don’t let that score fool you either as the Magic outscored Cleveland by 11 in the fourth to make it a ‘closer’ game. Granted, the Magic were without Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson, but they still looked awful at home. And say what you want about Stan Van Gundy, but I don’t mind him stating to the media that his guys are giving shoddy defensive efforts. He’s right, but it’s still his responsibility as well to make sure he gets what he wants out of his players.
Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics are flying high. They are 8-1 with wins against good teams, mediocre clubs and bad ones as well. Boston’s only defeat came at the hands of the Suns in a tight one, a game for sure the Celtics would love to have back. They are hot right now, giving up a league-low 84.6 points a game and show no signs of slowing despite their age.
So, you’ll want to treat yourself to this dish for sure, as Boston looks to keep top form while Orlando attempts to regain theirs. The return of Rashard Lewis should make this even better. Enjoy your dinner.
Prediction: Orlando’s struggling. It’s in Boston. I can’t go against the Celtics here. Boston by 9.
Can’t wrap your stomach around Eastern cuisine tonight? Need some more Southern flavor in your entree? Look no further than this spectacular Southwest divisional battle–another quick rematch of a good game only seven days prior.
The Spurs were without their two stars, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, and still managed to hold off the Mavericks at the AT&T center, although Dallas did manage to creep within four points late in the fourth quarter. However, Richard Jefferson stepped in strong to drop a season-high 29 points, giving San Antonio a much needed mental boost after starting out the season 3-3, including 2 losses to other Western powerhouses, Utah and Portland.
Meanwhile, this game would have been huge for the Mavs, but instead they fell to 5-3 and had their injured swingman, Josh Howard, suffer a set-back during the game. After an opening loss to the Wizards, the Mavs had gone 5-1 before the Spurs game with their sole loss to the Hornets in overtime. So you can bet Dallas is chomping at the bit for another shot at their hated cross-state rivals. San Antonio, however, still remembers last season’s playoff mockery, where they made a quick first-round exit after losing to Dallas in 5 short games–so you know they’re looking for a full season’s worth of redemption.
Here’s to hoping that both squads are fully healthy by Wednesday as this Texas matchup is as juicy as a T-bone.
Prediction: A tough one. I can’t figure these two teams out at the moment, although I’m sure they’ll be fighting for the division the entire way (although they need to watch out for the inspired Rockets). Anyways, I’ll go with the home team in this one. Mavericks by 5.
Stuffed? Had enough? Unbuckling your belt just a tad? That’s fine. Just relax and enjoy these dessert options- two games where you can merely sit back and be entertained. You had enough drama and bad blood- now you just want points and offense and skills and more points. I got just the dishes for ya.
1) Raptors at Nuggets: Tues, 11/17, 9:00 (ET)
Interesting, right? Well if you just wanna sit back, relax and be wowed, Denver’s where you need to be.
First, let’s begin with the Nuggets. It’s no secret that Denver is one of my favorite teams this year and I’ve predicted from day one that we’re going to get an even better Western conference finals in 2010 between the Nuggets and Lakers again. However, after starting 5-0 with four blowouts, the Nuggs have since gone 1-3, their last loss being to Milwaukee. Denver’s obvious excuse is their six-game Eastern conference road trip but nobody likes excuses. They got a big head after starting 5-0, especially with such high preseason expectations, and paid for it on the road. But I’m sure it’s just a snag and they’ll be fine. As long as ‘Melo goes, they go.
Over in Canadia, the Raptors are off to a pretty decent start themselves. They’re only 4-4 with the only real disappointing loss coming in Memphis. All four victories have been legit against pretty solid teams, although everyone’s beating New Orleans these days. But seriously: is there a better front court tandem right now then Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Hedo Turkoglu? Probably not. Oh and here’s the best stat: Shooting percentages: Turkoglu – 47.1%, Bargnani – 50.0%, Jose Calderon- 50.0%, Bosh – 50.7%. Gotta love that.
The Raptors average 108.1 and yield 108.6. For Denver, they score 106.3 while giving up 103.0 a contest. Toronto has beaten some good teams so far so they’re feeling confident while Denver is reeling. Eight out of the Nuggs’ next 10 games are at the Pepsi Center, so you know they’re coming home hungry. This has the makings for an offensive classic. Sit back and enjoy your dessert.
Prediction: This might be my first pick against the Nuggets. I just like Toronto and what they’re doing so far, so Raptors by 4.
2) Suns at Hornets: Thurs, 11/19, 8:00 (ET), National TV: TNT
This one is simple. Throw away the records, stats, firings and the fact that they played last week in Phoenix. This ones about you enjoying a true dessert: watching the two best point guards in the world do their thing.
I was at the Suns-Sixers game last Monday, and never really appreciated Steve Nash until I saw him from that close. He is insane– quick, smart, a solid shooter, great passer. Truly a floor general who will probably get serious consideration for a third MVP this year, if he keeps playing like at his current level.
Meanwhile, the Hornets might be 0-9 without Chris Paul. He’s averaging 26.1 points on 62.2% shooting. His assists are a little down so far, but they’ll rise throughout the year. He’s a super fast six-footer with some of the best court vision I’ve ever seen from a point guard.
The Suns destroyed the Hornets, 124-104, last week in Phoenix, but with this game being in NOLA, I expect the CP3 and company to come out motivated. You’re not gonna get a better matchup than Nash-Paul if you tried.
Prediction: Yea, New Orleans will play hard, but Phoenix is obviously on a warpath right now. If the Hornets can figure things out quick, they could pull this one out, but it might take them weeks before gaining an identity, especially with a new man at the helm. Suns get the road win by 11. Oh, and some advice to Jeff Bower: Last year, in 39.2 minutes a contest, David West averaged 21.0 points a game on 17.0 shots while collecting 8.5 boards per. This year: 34.4 minutes, 12.8 attempts resulting in 15.4 points per game, and only 5.9 rebounds. So do what Byron Scott didn’t–get no. 30 the ball. You’re 3-6.
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1) Grizzlies at Sixers: Fri, 11/20, 7:00 (ET)
Damn it, Allen.