What To Watch Here In 2k12?
These 10 games headline an entertaining week in the NBA.
6) Rockets at Thunder: Fri, 1/6, 8:00 (EST)
Thunder at Rockets: Sat, 1/7, 8:00 (EST)
Dime-worthy because… the Thunder, although having lost two straight, are still the favorites in the West while the Rockets are nowhere near as bad as their 2-3 record might indicate. After starting 5-0, Oklahoma City lost in two straight nights to Dallas and Portland, which isn’t much to freak out at. Durant laid an egg against the Blazers, shooting 8-26, but we all know that won’t happen too often, so no worries yet Thunder. Houston had a back-to-back-to-back last week, winning two against the Spurs and Hawks. They hung tough with the Lakers on Tuesday night, but lost both the game and Courtney Lee to an unfortunate foot injury. Kyle Lowry is really making a name for himself, and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Chase Budinger is still good enough to fight for a Playoff spot.
Key matchup: Kevin Durant vs Chase Budinger
Good luck with this one, Chase. Although he does have a chance to do some things against KD on the offensive side… this matchup could get silly.
Prediction: Durant owns, Thunder bounce back to sweep the home and home, Houston’s tough start continues.
7) Nuggets at Spurs: Sat, 1/7, 8:30 (EST)
Dime-worthy because… I can’t get over how good the Nuggets continue to be following the ‘Melo trade. That 19-7 post-Melo record last season was certainly no fluke as the Nuggets have started 4-2 here with two close losses to the Blazers and Lakers. Denver’s depth continues to jump out at you, with six players averaging double figures in the early going and that doesn’t even include Rudy Fernandez. Huge test for the Manu-less Spurs at home.
Key matchup: Ty Lawson/Andre Miller vs Tony Parker
The Nuggets are implementing an efficient point guard platoon with Lawson and Miller, who both play over 30 minutes a contest. Miller’s the better playmaker while Lawson is quicker and can score, but they play off each other well and it’s clearly working for Denver. Tony Parker’s going to have to assume a gigantic load without his fellow European next to him, and it will be up to him to figure out the best way for San Antonio to run its offense now, since Parker has posted just 13.2 points in his first five games.
Prediction: Manu injury could sting for a while, but it still won’t be enough to keep the Spurs down. But I just happen to love the Nuggets’ depth. Denver by 8.
Spurs at Thunder: Sunday, 1/8, 7:00 (EST), National TV: NBA TV
Dime-worthy because… the Manu injury is coinciding with a ridiculously harsh stretch for the Spurs, who play the Warriors, Mavericks, Nuggets, Thunder, Bucks, Rockets and Blazers in the span of nine days. So, ya know, let’s see what they’re really made of. They were doing their normal Spur thing before Ginobili went down, starting 3-1 with the usual stingy defense. Adversity now calls, and the tests just keep on coming for the old men in black.
Key matchup: Bench vs Bench
San Antonio will need contributions from its young guys if they have any hopes of winning this game. The Thunder’s starting unit is way better but if the Spurs can get a big game from Matt Bonner, James Andersen, Tiago Splitter and Kawhi Leonard, that might be enough to fill the void left by Manu and beat OKC. Doubtful, but possible.
Prediction: OKC at home? Too tough. Get better soon, Emanuel.
9) Pacers at Sixers: Monday, 1/9, 7:00 (EST)
Dime-worthy because… both squads sit firmly in the second tier of the Eastern conference, but on the upswing. Each squad is very young and very inexperienced, but play extremely hard for their coaches, especially in stretch-time. Both teams should be there in the postseason, and both have a (slim) hope for a home series. Philly actually has a much better chance as I could see them fighting Boston and New York for the Atlantic crown, whereas the Pacers will lose out to the Bulls despite an impressive 4-1 start to their season. Indiana’s four wins are over Detroit, Toronto, Cleveland and New Jersey, so let’s not get too excited. But the fact that the Pacers have yet to allow 100 points and are beating the bad teams handily show they’re in the East discussion at least.
Meanwhile the Sixers lost a really tough, hard-fought game in Portland the day after Christmas and also blew a huge lead to the Jazz in Utah. Couple breaks here and there, and the Sixers are sitting at 4-0. Their two wins have come in blowout fashion over the Suns and Warriors, while they are still yet to play at home. They get New Orleans tonight before their home opener against the Pistons on Friday.
Key matchup: David West vs Elton Brand
DWest has been one of my favorite players since his Xavier days in the A-10, and Indiana got a great bargain for him at two years, $20 million. He hasn’t paid huge dividends yet, but the entire Pacers organization continually lauds him for his presence and maturity. He can break out at any game and put up 20/10, so the Sixers better be prepared. Brand hasn’t met the expectations of his $80-million deal, but nevertheless still remains very effective on both sides of the court when healthy. His job this game will reside mostly on the defensive end, where hopefully fellow front-court mate Spencer Hawes continues his assault on the boards (12.5 rpg).
Prediction: The Pacers scare me a tad in this game. It will be close, but I just see Granger lighting it up at the end. Indiana by 2.
10) Clippers at Blazers: Tuesday, 1/10, 10:00 (EST)
Dime-worthy because…the only blemish on Portland’s record so far has come at the hands of the Clippers. And boy, did Los Angeles ever need that game after getting owned by both San Antonio and Chicago. To be fair, the expectations put on the Clippers are insane, even though the talent is clearly there. But talent takes a while to come together, and while they will no doubt there in April, they need to figure out if they’re good enough to make a serious run. The victory over Portland on New Year’s Day was huge for their confidence and huge for CP3. By the time this game arrives, the Blazers might have more than one loss, but they’ll still be licking their chops for another go against L.A.C. at home.
Key matchup: Blake Griffin vs LaMarcus Aldridge
Does it get any better than this? They had very similar games against each other although Blake got to the stripe 10 times verse two trips for Aldridge. LaMarcus might be moving toward the top of the discussion for best PF in the League, but Blake (26.0/9.8) is the discussion. Nevertheless, it should be a tremendous battle down low.
Prediction: Blazers exact a little revenge on the Clips and continue the extremely strong start to their season.
Bulls – 4
Thunder – 4
Blazers – 4
Spurs – 4
Lakers – 3
Clippers – 3
Nuggets – 3
Hawks – 3
Heat – 2
Mavericks – 2
Sixers – 2
Grizzlies – 1
Knicks – 1
Jazz – 1
Magic – 1
Rockets – 1
Pacers – 1
Still awaiting the Celtics, Nets, Raptors, Pistons, Cavs, Bucks, Bobcats, Wizards, TWolves, Kings, Suns, Hornets and Warriors.